Gone are the days when doctors made house calls. Today, hospitals can barely keep up with the growing number of patients, and some doctors are opting for MDVIP or Concierge Practice, where they only take on a small number of patients who can pay a premium for more individualized care. It is almost impossible to walk into a clinic without waiting, even in North America. In some places, the closest hospital facility may be 100 miles away or simply doesn’t have the proper resources. The age of technology and smart devices has opened the doors to a new, promising way to address healthcare that capitalizes on the connectivity of our world: telehealth.
Telehealth is defined as the use of technology or telecommunications to provide health services in the areas of health, medicine, and education. Telehealth has a host of applications, from being used to virtually diagnose a patient to providing general health instruction.
More than just a diagnostic tool
Telehealth utilizes all types of technology, and even allows patients to virtually interface with health professionals. This is a major development, as it can allow for much quicker diagnoses and make treatment far more efficient and streamlined. For example: an individual notices a questionable-looking mole and wants to get it checked out given his or her family’s history of skin cancer, but doesn’t can take off work for an appointment. With the use of telehealth, he or she can send a picture of the mole to a dermatologist and virtually discuss possibilities and concerns. The dermatologist can make a quick diagnosis as to whether the mole does in fact require a biopsy, or if the individual should just continue to monitor it at home. Not only does telehealth save time and money, but it also allows a professional to determine a health issue right away even if the patient cannot be physically present, which, in the case of something like skin cancer, can be critical.
Healthcare for all
One of the most important aspects of telehealth is its ability to make healthcare available to everyone, even those in rural, inner city, and impoverished areas, where, in many cases, it is easier to obtain a smartphone than it is to get proper medical care. Travelling to the nearest hospital or clinic can be expensive, not to mention the cost of the treatment itself. On the other side of the coin, building facilities and obtaining resources and proper staffing is incredibly costly, and usually isn’t an option for those areas already dealing with poor infrastructure and lack of funds.
Telehealth is also important for the elderly and those with disabilities, for whom travel is risky and challenging. If a patient requires regular treatment, telehealth allows for the remote monitoring of vitals and the gathering of the medical information needed to continue assisting the patient without them having to leave home.
Global education and resource sharing
Education is hugely important when it comes to healthcare. Many of the world’s health issues can be controlled or even solved with proper education and preventative care, but, unfortunately, millions of people still do not have access to what should be a necessity. With the help of telehealth, health education and resources can be made remotely accessible, no matter the location or language spoken. For those within the health industry, telehealth can be used by medical professionals across the globe to share research, communicate and formulate alternative diagnoses for complex medical cases. Further, in cases where a hospital requires a specialist who is not on-site, the specialist can join the team remotely from any other hospital or medical facility in the world. Telehealth is a comprehensive solution for any issues that come about because of lack of resources.
Telehealth, for sure, represents the future of healthcare, changing the face of the health industry as we know it. And, with the development of new and better technologies occurring at a rapid rate, the opportunity for telehealth will only continue to increase.