In the healthcare IT industry, two of the driving goals that are often at odds with one another are controlling costs and improving the quality of medical treatment. Telemedicine is one of the practical concepts that truly has the ability to do both at once. Despite being called telemedicine, this group of technologies is used in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, just as much if not more that in a home care or remote setting.
Currently, telemedicine focuses largely on remote patient monitoring, but it also includes the use of videoconferencing for medical purposes as well.
How is healthcare technology used in a hospital or nursing home?
In these settings, remote patient monitoring is used by healthcare professionals to monitor patients while in other areas of the facility and to share that information rapidly by interfacing with electronic medical record (EMR) systems and picture archiving and communications systems (PACS). The videoconferencing is used to allow doctors to confer with one another, get consults, and call in specialists without having to bring everyone together in one physical location.
Facilities that have these health technologies can more effectively monitor large patient pools and get medical decision makers involved in critical situations rapidly and without the challenges of getting everyone in physical proximity.
How is the technology used in a home setting?
In this capacity, telemedicine allows for improved quality of life for many patients suffering from chronic conditions. The Advanced Remote Patient Monitoring Systems allows physicians the ability to monitor and record everything from basic vital signs to cardiovascular and respiratory issues. This keeps patients out of the hospitals and in their homes where they are more comfortable unless actual treatment is needed.
It also allows medical professionals to be more directly involved with chronic patient care without the expense and space issues that are involved with hospitalization. While not yet widely in use, the teleconference aspect of telemedicine could make it possible for patients with mobility issues to have appointments with their favorite doctors without having to leave home.
So what will this all mean for healthcare?
Imagine a patient at a hospital has a cardiac event. The monitor on the patient goes off and the nursing staff and the doctors on duty get not only a notification of the event, but all of the exact details sent directly to a mHealth device that they are carrying with them. They get to the room already completely aware of what is happening and stop the event. Then the physician flips on a screen and connects to another doctor in a different part of the hospital who immediately accesses the information on the patient and they begin to work together on what happened and why.
You could also imagine a situation where an elderly patient at home starts having trouble breathing. The home monitors pick up on the issue and a doctor is immediately notified of the problem. A monitor then goes on automatically in the house and a doctor gets to talk directly to the patient within minutes of the problem starting.
In the end, this mobility of information and rapid communication will be our ticket to faster, less expensive and more reliable treatment both in and out of the hospital setting. So, as these technologies improve, I see telemedicine as being instrumental in improving how medicine is practiced all over the world.
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