Just What is Telehealth?
Healthcare technology is one area of science and research which is constantly developing at a seemingly rapid rate. Driving such innovation is the massive pharmaceutical industry, which as we all know is multi-billion-dollar industry that is constantly developing new drugs, new treatments for diseases, and innovating new medical technology for use in hospitals and clinics.
Another area of science and innovation that is similarly well-funded and energetic is telecommunications. The shift in working patterns over the last 30 years has been a pretty much unbroken trend towards increasingly more remote working – with the covid-19 pandemic only bolstering the numbers of people deciding to work remotely. But such a shift would not be possible without advances in new remote working technologies such as remote work management services, advanced video calling technology, etc.
And so, you have probably already guessed where this is going. With such energetic research and development being conducted in both fields, it is no surprise the combination of the two of them – appropriately known as telehealth – is something else which has seen a massive boost in recent years. But what actually is it?
Telehealth is most broadly defined as the delivery and facilitation of health services via telecommunications and digital communications technology. In practice, a patient would make use of things like live video conferencing with healthcare professionals, mobile health apps tracking treatment, and medication plans and technologies like remote patient monitoring, which allow doctors and pharmacists to monitor a patient’s health remotely.
As you might expect, telehealth sees its greatest potential realized with patients who require ongoing care, prescriptions, and check-ups as this is where telehealth technologies can alleviate the need to physically visit a doctor or a pharmacist on an ongoing basis. To put it another way, this allows patients to simply live their life assured that their health is still being monitored without having to regularly “check in”.
Telehealth has also significantly changed the work of health professionals, who must now typically acquire extra skills in order to work with telehealth infrastructures. Taking a quick look at a health job board such as Health Jobs Nationwide, you will notice that many of the traditional roles also now include this extra requirement. Here follows then some examples of telehealth applications:
Screening Patients Before Entry to a Facility
Just like telecommunications in general, the use of telehealth was only boosted by the pandemic. One of its applications is to screen a patient, and even arrive at a diagnosis, before they even enter a facility. Online questionnaires to determine if a patient is infected before they even come in to a hospital is but one example of telehealth being used in this way.
Digital Front Doors
What this refers to is the various means by which patients book a place at a health facility remotely and are then “welcomed” to it before they ever come there in person. The use of online calendars and other booking software is that which makes this possible, meaning the patient can simply turn up and begin treatment with all the preliminaries having been carried out remotely beforehand.
Monitoring Patients Remotely
There are always a set of measurable metrics by which a patient’s progress and health can be monitored. The tools that measure these can be sent out remotely and, in many cases, be used by the patient themselves. Thereafter, that data can be remotely sent to physician who can keep up ongoing observation of a patient from afar.
There is no denying that telehealth can massively increase the efficiency of healthcare institutions, simply by expanding the range over which healthcare can be carried out.