So, what is telemedicine, exactly? Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely, when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Modern technology enables doctors to consult with patients by using video-conferencing tools. They can share information in real time from one computer screen to another. And they can even see and capture readings from medical devices at a faraway location. Using telemedicine, patients can see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment without having to wait for an appointment. Patients don’t even have to leave home.Health care experts are optimistic that telemedicine will expand access to people who live in remote areas, far away from a clinic or hospital. There is some evidence that telemedicine can improve patient monitoring, reduce costs, and reduce the need for hospital readmission. Innovations like telemedicine are often a few steps ahead of government. In the United States, both federal and state governments have struggled to keep up. Now more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed parity laws requiring telemedicine consultations to be reimbursed at the same rate as a traditional in-person visit. Also, a number of private insurance companies are willing to reimburse for telemedicine, depending on the patient’s specific plan. Many people think of telemedicine as the wave of the future. In fact, the technology has already existed for years. Modern hospitals and clinics are currently offering their patients the option to use telemedicine.
Telemedicine for Remote ClinicsIn many Walmart stores, retail consumers can walk up to a kiosk for a doctor consultation. The doctor is not physically present inside the store. Instead, the customer uses a touchscreen computer to type in their symptoms and enter a virtual waiting room. They are then connected by a video link to a doctor. This use-case is HIPAA-compliant because the video link is encrypted to protect patient health information.
Mobile HealthSometimes the answer to the question “What is telemedicine?” is simply mobile medicine. It doesn’t require a heavy desktop computer or a lot of equipment. Activities that used to happen only in person are now easy to do on a smartphone. Modern consumers are accustomed to downloading apps and using their smartphones for simple transactions. The same is true for doctor visits. For example, with MDLIVE the patient simply opens the app and clicks to choose a doctor, with whom they can speak either by phone, instant message, or video. More recently, we are starting to see small scopes and other peripherals that can plug into a mobile phone. These devices transform the phone into a pocket-sized diagnosis tool, excellent for point-of-care tests.
What Is Telemedicine? It’s Device StreamingMedical devices that can stream their data long-distance include, but are not limited to:
- Digital stethoscope
- Pulse oximeter
- Blood pressure cuff