What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of caring for patients remotely via HIPAA-compliant conferencing tools when there isn’t an opportunity for a face-to-face, in-office appointment. Patients can schedule virtual appointments with their doctor using telemedicine software, eliminating the need to travel to the doctor’s office and sit in the waiting room. Not only does this offer convenience, but it’s also typically a more cost-effective method for treatment.
When Is It Used?
Originally created to help patients living in remote areas with a shortage of medical professionals, telemedicine has evolved tremendously as technology has improved. While it’s still used for those purposes today, it has also been adopted as a tool to provide convenient health care for people with busy schedules. It presents an opportunity to address minor, yet significant, conditions or to complete follow-up appointments.
Telemedicine has been especially beneficial in the allergy and asthma field, used for both asthma management and for follow-up appointments for allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). During appointments patients may receive education and learn to identify and avoid triggers and exacerbations, and doctors can demonstrate appropriate use of medications and monitoring devices without the need for an in-person visit.
Types of Telemedicine
There are three common types of telemedicine, or the remote delivery of health care services. These include:
When patients and physicians communicate virtually while maintaining HIPAA compliance
Store and Forward
When providers can share patient information with practitioners in other locations
Remote Patient Monitoring
When caregivers can monitor patient data (e.g. blood pressure or blood sugar) remotely, using mobile medical devices
Benefits of Telemedicine
The benefits of telemedicine are vast – everything from less time spent away from work to increased access to specialists, less exposure to contagious patients, and limited travel expense. There are benefits for providers as well, ranging from improved office efficiency to fewer missed or cancelled appointments. Thanks to technological advancements, telemedicine offers an entirely new of way of meeting and treating patients.