What exactly is telemedicine? As the word implies, it combines technology with medicine: it “enables practitioners to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients remotely using the latest telecommunications technology.”
Then and Now
Although the concept of telemedicine may seem thoroughly modern, its roots go back generations. In 1924, a magazine called Radio News featured a cover with “a patient at home consulting a doctor in his surgery via a television link….” At that time, the television was considered modern technology, but today’s telemedicine incorporates most recent innovations.
With today’s technology, people do not have to be at home, with a television, to connect with a physician. They could connect through a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone. That means that patients could seek a doctor’s care while at work, on vacation, or while camping. Instead of visiting a doctor’s office, people can seek care from basically anywhere.
Does It Work?
Telemedicine is no longer theoretical. It is happening, today, throughout the world. Employees of a Minnesota school system “can step into a booth at work, shut the door, and consult a doctor via video.” In the booth, the individual can a blood pressure cuff to get a reading, which is transmitted to the Mayo Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic is also using today’s technology: patients who have an “Internet connection and a video-enabled device” can engage in a virtual visit.
For people who wonder about the effectiveness of telemedicine, it may be reassuring to know that “It’s well-established in rural areas for specialty consultations….” That’s not all: telemedicine “has been widely used in many primary care practices like pediatrics as a practical matter (although most pediatricians do not bill for phone consultations).”
Where does telemedicine go from here? The answer may be that telemedicine is going around the world. “The number of patients worldwide using telehealth services will rise from less than 350,000 in 2013 to roughly seven million in 2018.” That means that telemedicine – rather than being an option for a relatively small number of people throughout the world – will become part of life for a much greater percentage of the population.
Some health insurance companies are at the forefront of making telemedicine available to patients. UnitedHealth Group is one example: “By Jan. 1, 2016, 20 million members in UnitedHealth’s full insured plans will have access to the network.” Similarly, “Cigna began last year to provide access to internists, family physicians, and pediatricians in a deal with telehealth provider MDLive.”
Where Do You Fit in?
At 365 Healthcare Staffing Services, we know that you want to be current on everything that impacts patient care, and telemedicine is part of that. We can help you with that. To contact our great team, give us a call at 310.436.3650 today!