Telemedicine is primarily a method of electronic communication (sharing data) between providers and patients for clinical healthcare purposes. That communication can take different forms including audio, video, images, and text. Telemedicine delivery is hence a collection of telecommunication, IT, remote monitoring and diagnostic technologies which are grouped in to four main categories namely:
- Live Video conferencing (Synchronous communication): Also referred to as teleconsultation where there is a live interaction between the patient and the doctor via a secure video telecommunication link.
- Store and Forward (Asynchronous): There is no live interaction between the patient and the doctor, instead the patient data (History or Images) are recorded, stored and then transmitted to the doctor. For example - Transmission of an image of a skin rash from a primary care doctor to a teledermatoglogist via a secure communication channel for expert consultation.
- Remote monitoring: Monitoring of a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and other symptoms using remote monitoring devices that can record the data at one location and securely transmit it via the internet to a provider in a different location for better care management.
- Mobile Health applications: Use of mobile applications for delivery of health related information to increase public awareness or increase patient engagement for treatment and management of chronic conditions. This could include the use of targeted text messaging to encourage healthy patient behavior in order to influence positive health outcomes.
There still exist issues of reimbursement, licensure, credentialing and state specific regulations that need to be addressed. These issues are being addressed at a state level and hence telemedicine adoption at the present moment is very state specific with some states more “telemedicine friendly” than others. There is no doubt about the benefits of telemedicine and despite existing issues providers and payers are moving forward undaunted.
In upcoming blogs I intend to talk more about telemedicine and will address topics such as:
- What technology do you need to set up a telemedicine practice?
- What safeguards need to be implemented to minimize the risk of a data breach?