What is Telehealth?

Telehealth includes the use of informational and telecommunication technologies to provide long-distance health care services, education, health administration, and public health. It is used to facilitate communication between the clinician and patients who are suffering from long-term conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Heart Failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.

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Telehealth also includes monitoring of patient’s vitals to prevent critical issues. It allows patients to take an active role in the treatment process.

Telehealth has a positive effect on a patient’s quality of life by reducing emergency admissions, visits to A&E, and overall mortality rate.

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The History of Telehealth

The origins of Telehealth date back on the 60s when it was used to monitor astronauts’ health. Since then, the entire concept has evolved, and now it has mass use. At first, the costs of Telehealth were too high, but with the internet, it became cheaper and available to almost everyone.

It helps individuals get the best healthcare even if they are miles away from their physician.

Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

Telehealth and Telemedicine are terms that are often considered synonyms. However, Telehealth includes a broader range of services. Telemedicine, on the other hand, provides services to patients who are geographically separated from their healthcare provider.

This includes reading of lab results by experts from some other hospital or city. Additionally, Telehealth offers education and vital signs monitoring.

Telehealth Technologies

Some of the technologies Telehealth utilizes include:

  • mHealth
  • Video calls
  • Remote Patient Monitoring
  • Store and Forward

mHealth includes apps that patients use on their mobile devices to promote healthcare. Some of these apps are medication or appointment reminders or vital signs trackers, smoking cessation, and weight management apps.

Video conference calls are mostly used when a patient lives in a rural area, for prisoners, or soldiers. Remote Patient Monitoring includes apps and wearable devices that collect certain data such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, or weight, that is then being sent to the physician.

Store and Forward provides storing and transmission of patients data. It includes servers, routers, and secure email platforms.

Telehealth Services and Counseling

Some of the Telehealth services and applications are:

  • Primary healthcare
  • Education
  • Patient engagement
  • Treating mental health
  • Communication

Telehealth allows patients from small towns with fewer resources to get the medical assistance they need. It also helps professionals get their continuous education.

Moreover, Telehealth improves patients’ engagement in their treatment process by giving them an opportunity to learn and connect with healthcare providers or other people with a similar problem.

The Bottom Line

Even though Telehealth has many benefits, it should not replace face-to-face communication between the physician and a patient.

It can also cause a phenomenon called fragmented care that includes misuse of medications, overlapping of certain services, and gaps in others. Telehealth should only be one aspect or a tool in a complex system of healthcare.

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