By Debbie Gregory.
These days, more and more people are working from home, shopping from home, and even seeing the doctor from home. Telemedicine, the use of telecommunication and information technology to deliver clinical healthcare from a distance, is changing healthcare as we know it.
Telemedicine allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance using technology. The approach has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, and it is becoming an increasingly important part of the healthcare infrastructure.
Doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and computer webcams. Physicians and allied healthcare professionals are also consulting with each other electronically.
Telemedicine is a key component of medical care on the International Space Station. Today’s long-duration and exploration missions require space medicine to fulfill a much wider-ranging mandate and extend beyond minor illness and urgent care.
Additionally, patients are using new devices to relay their vital signs to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions at home. This is especially valuable to patients in isolated communities and remote regions; telemedicine can offer care from doctors or specialists far away, without requiring the patient to travel for medical services.
Additional benefits include: less time away from work; no travel expenses or time; less interference with child or elder care responsibilities; privacy; and an avoidance of exposure to other potentially contagious patients.
Hospitals, enabled by telemedicine, will increasingly serve as command posts for care. Through continued advancements, the telemedicine industry will grow exponentially, revolutionizing healthcare as we know it today.
The fastest-growing services in telemedicine connect patients with clinicians they’ve never met for one-time phone, video or email visits—on-demand, 24/7. Typically, these are for nonemergency issues such as colds and the flu, earaches, skin rashes, etc.
But critics are concerned that such services may be sacrificing quality for convenience. Minor issues such as upper respiratory infections can’t really be evaluated by a doctor who can’t listen to your heart, culture your throat or feel your swollen glands.