Administering medical care electronically makes a lot of sense. It’s a practical way for patients to receive care and for doctors to provide it. Advances in telemedicine, a type of medical practice that takes place without the doctor and patient sharing the same physical space, is increasing in popularity, and rightly so. Healthcare businesses adept at adopting new technology have been practicing it for decades. But given today’s advancement in the healthcare industry, the variety of devices used, communication speed, and overall quality of service, vast improvements have been made to this convenient alternative to conventional medical practices.
A key element in making telemedicine work is technology, which comprises video-teleconferencing equipment, a fast and steady internet connection, and the latest, advanced telemedicine software. Because this special type of medical practice requires a highly visual interaction, these elements are indispensable.
Healthcare businesses and individual medical practices with a telemedical capability also need to comply with the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), and other healthcare legislation. Mostly, these regulations involve compliance with the handling and storage of personally identifiable patient data.
To make telemedicine effective, healthcare providers need to exert as much effort and follow the same rules as a traditional medical practice. Is it an option truly worth considering?
Telemedicine solves the basic problem of access. For example, if a patient in a far-flung Nigerian town needs to see a specialist based in the US, telemedicine can make that possible. In a less complicated medical situation, telemedicine solves the problems of mobility. Without having to go to the hospital for treatment, a patient can conveniently dial or log in to an online system to consult a doctor.
One of the more problematic aspects of a doctor’s visit is the long wait. Often, wait times take much longer than the actual consultation. Patients with a minor illness would rather self-medicate than visit a hospital and be met with a long queue. With telemedicine, the waiting can be done in the comfort of the patient’s own home.
Seeing your physician online doesn’t mean a diminished quality of care — provided, of course, that all devices, telemedicine software, and other technical aspects work seamlessly. In some instances, remote medical care enhances patient experience. Follow-ups, post-operation check-ups, and quick consultations can be done using a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, thereby reducing the possibility of missing an appointment.
That’s not just referring to the transportation expense of going to the doctor’s; the actual cost of an in-person visit is much higher than the cost of a virtual one. For minor ailments like colds and flu, a physical visit to the clinic might set you back as much as $100; whereas a virtual one, only $45.
Telemedicine is not taking over conventional medicine — it augments it. Substantially. Patients can expect an expansion of this practice in many medical providers, while healthcare providers can expect rapid growth in telemedical technology, especially as healthcare compliance requirements evolve.
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