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TELEMEDICINE AND TELEHEALTH: THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE?


In recent years there have been major developments in technology and specifically healthcare technology, which has become a major talking point among doctors and patients. This development started as a result of people being more inclined to stay inside their homes when feeling slightly under the weather, rather than venture out into hospitals where they are potentially exposing themselves to all kinds of risks.

The result – Telemedicine and Telehealth technology.

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, but what exactly does it mean.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. This allows doctors and physicians in one location to use telecommunication infrastructure to deliver care to a patient off-site. In primary care, telemedicine usually happens in the form of telephone calls, where the patient seeks the doctor’s advice about medical problems which do not require the doctor to see the patient. Telemedicine does not replace face-to-face consultation when it is needed but instead complements it.

The biggest benefit that telemedicine holds lies in the convenience it offers to patients and practitioners. It is also cost-effective in comparison to the process of waiting to see a doctor or other healthcare provider.

This approach has been through a major evolution in the last decade and it is becoming an increasingly important part of the South African healthcare infrastructure especially with the aim of broadening access to healthcare.

 

What is telehealth?

Telehealth refers more broadly to technologies and services used to provide care and services from a far. In other words technology that allows doctors and patients to deliver a health service from a distance and lets your doctor provide care  without an in-person visit. Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

There are several options for telehealth care:

  1. Talk to your doctor live over the phone or video chat.
  2. Send and receive messages from your doctor using messaging, email, and secure file exchange.
  3. Use remote monitoring so your doctor can check on you at home. For example, you might use a device to gather vital signs or other vitals to help your doctor stay informed on your progress.

 

Benefits of telehealth

Virtual visits are growing in popularity. Though in-person office visits may be necessary in certain cases, there are many benefits of telehealth care.

Healthcare providers enjoy:

  • Increased revenue
  • Improved office efficiency
  • Improved health outcomes
  • Fewer missed appointments and cancellations
Patients enjoy:
  • Less time away from work
  • No travel expenses or time
  • Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
  • Privacy
  • No exposure to other potentially contagious patients

 

Telehealth the Future of Healthcare

Various devices are now being used like Bluetooth oximeters to monitor patient oxygen levels using smart apps (like our O2 Rings for example), fetal heart rate monitors or even glucose monitors that now makes it easier for patients to share their health data with doctors, should they be concerned or not willing to visit the healthcare provider in person.

There are various benefits to increasing the use of telehealth and telemedicine to meet our nation’s demand for health care.

  1. Convenience of care,
  2. increased access,
  3. improved worker productivity from not having to take time off and travel to appointments,
  4. decreased costs, and
  5. clinician time savings

For these reasons, providers and patients alike are moving towards more telehealth solutions, especially with recent news that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet, and J.P. Morgan Chase have teamed up to improve healthcare, and we can speculate with relative certainty that telehealth and telemedicine will be a key part of their efforts.


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