DrSocial's Top 5 Challenges of Telemedicine

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With the increasing number of companies integrating telehealth, there are still some ongoing discussions whether it is as effective as a face-to-face interaction.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine is the diagnosis, consultation, monitoring, or transferring of encrypted medical data via telecommunication services and therefore, it is important to set continuing educational standards for physicians who seek to practice it. Before raising all other questions there might be about the use and effectiveness of telehealth, patients first must be confident that it is safe.

Research firm Kalorama Information (http://www.kaloramainformation.com) named telemedicine one of its top 5 health trends for the past year, while IDC Health Insights projects that some 65 percent of transactions with healthcare organizations will be mobile by 2018. The Global Telemedicine market in 2016 is predicted to be $27 billion, with Virtual Health Services making up $16 billion of that amount. By 2018, 70 percent of them will have apps, offer wearables, do remote health monitoring, and even offer virtual care. More than one-third of the money Google Ventures invested in 2014 went to healthcare and life-sciences companies.

The benefits of using telemedicine include increased access to specialist consultations, improved access to primary and ambulatory care and reduced waiting times, and even though telehealth is set to grow considerably in the immediate future, there are some obstacles to overcome:

1. Integrated data - The telehealth system requires integration of techniques, including interoperability of medical devices, EHR/EMR, personal health records, and other technologies. Providers should not rely on a single system or product, but should invest in scalable models capable of integrating data from a variety of devices.
2. Electronic patients records - Before telemedicine can be practiced, it is necessary to invest in developing an electronic medical record and in receiving training for this type of service, which can be a further disincentive to using this approach. Patients need to be able to access their own records and also have an access to their doctor or a nurse.
3. Trust - Trust management is crucial to adoption and sustainability of systems. Secure, dependable, real-time communication networks with quality of service guarantees, and interference-resistant wireless networks are needed to increase telehealth systems adoption
4. Prescription of drugs - In some states the law says that physicians cannot prescribe medication without first performing a “physical” examination, while others only limit telehealth prescribing to certain classes of drugs. In the current regulatory environment, telehealth providers that wish to prescribe drugs without a prior in-person encounter with the patient will need to carefully review the prescription drug laws in the states where they operate as well as the states where their patients are located, and may need different procedures and protocols across states in order to comply with each state’s laws.
5. Post-treatment care - Most telehealth visits end after a diagnosis has been made and the treatment plan has been discussed with the patient. However, follow-up care days and/or weeks after the initial visit will be needed to ensure the patient’s needs were met and all issues were resolved. Integration with the patient’s entire medical record is essential for continuity of care.

Though there are advantages to getting counseling on demand and in the comfort of one’s own home, there are limits to what doctors can do when unable to diagnose a patient in person- including restrictions on tests and prescription drugs.

If those challenges are defeated, technology has the potential to improve the quality of health care and to make it accessible to more people.

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com
http://www.kaloramainformation.com

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Claudio Teri
@DrsocialOrg
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