Technological Advances Are Facilitating Telehealth
July 10, 2018
There are two main forms that telehealth applications take: real-time communication (synchronous) and store-and-forward (asynchronous). Real-time communications are frequently used to consult with a remote specialist, but they can also be used for interpretive and educational purposes. On the other hand, store-and-forward refers to transmitting digital images in order to acquire additional input for a diagnosis. This is commonly done in the fields of radiology and dermatology.
Today, many doctors can use either or both of these types of applications in order to improve the care they are able to provide to their patients. However, neither type of application was possible just a few short decades ago. Let’s look at some of the technological advances that have made today’s telehealth a reality.
Advances in Communication Technology
The infancy of telemedicine can be found in the 1970s with the limited use of primitive and expensive video-conferencing technology to connect local providers with remote specialists. This type of real-time communication is still used today, but advances in communication technology have made its use much simpler and more affordable. Using modern video-conferencing equipment is almost as good as having the consulting doctor in the room with you. These types of systems can also be utilized to provide patients with quality counseling or other mental health care that may be unavailable where they live.
Real-Time Diagnostic and Vital-Sign Data Transfer
In addition to improved video-conferencing technology, the ability to transfer diagnostic information almost instantaneously has greatly advanced synchronous telehealth. Machines that can measure, track and report a patient’s vital signs and condition are being used in various ways to great advantage. They are being used to provide indispensable information to remote specialists by facilitating an almost interactive examination. They are also allowing doctors to monitor patients with chronic medical conditions, which can improve safety and decrease medical costs by preventing unnecessary doctor visits or hospital admissions.
For those with less time-critical medical needs, store-and-forward systems can be used when the presence of both parties at the same time is not necessary. Going one step further, doctors can utilize cloud technology to securely share high-quality medical photographs, X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans and other images among doctors and specialists who can provide insight into a patient’s diagnosis. For example, let’s say a patient lives in a small town in Idaho and has a relatively rare medical condition. That patient’s MRI scans could be shared between her local doctor and specialists in Maryland and Minnesota without taking the time to send digital files back and forth and eliminating the costly need to send physical images.
In recent decades, technology has revolutionized how we care for patients. Telehealth is simply a continuation of that revolution. As telehealth continues to grow, more and more patients will have access to the specialized care they need. The collaborative possibilities are seemingly endless! Contact WeCounsel today to learn how we can help you provide quality telemental health to your patients.