Telehealth? Telemedicine? Is it where you call your doctor? Not really. Telehealth is a very wide field, that encompasses many fields – from medical education to surgery. We are showing you, how telemedicine works and what uses of telehealth are common.
1. Telehealth for direct patient consultations
This is probably what a standard patient considers telehealth. Consultation with the doctor over the phone or the internet – be it a chat or a video call – is the most visible form of telehealth for a patient. This creates a few other perceptions – like that of telemedicine being only a simple equivalent of the most basic consultation. There is some truth in that – as the simple phone conversation with the doctor is only based on the self-reporting by a patient.
2. Telehealth for diagnosis
Data is crucial for telemedicine when it comes to patient consultation and the simplest telehealth has some issues with diagnosing. The most basic telemedicine diagnostic is mainly based on patient-doctor conversation via chat or phone calls. It mostly works when it comes to repetitive, easy actions that do not require much data – as the patient can only describe a few symptoms and may not see everything that is happening to them.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical specialization that used telehealth solutions the most were radiologists – the specialization where the main feature of diagnosis is analyzing photos provided by the patients – and there is no lack of data for it.
Higo is a telemedical solution that solves the problem of the clinical data not being available, allowing patients to self-examine and provide doctors objective data they can base their diagnosis on – replacing diagnostic tools that they have available in the examination room.
3. Telemedicine for patient monitoring at home
When it comes to the patient-facing procedures, telemonitoring of the state of patient’s health in chronic diseases is the second most common way most patients meet with telehealth. Monitoring solutions are common within cardiology, where heart-rate monitors or blood pressure sensors – that pass clinical data to the doctor – are commonplace.
Monitoring patient health at home is also a great solution for geriatrics. With elderly patients with limited mobility and difficulty to reach the clinic it is important to have their health closely monitored. Telehealth solutions (from very simple ones, like watches that monitor the pulse and send a signal if it falls, to devices that allow constant support by the medical staff at home) are a great way to support seniors without the need for them to apply for hospital treatment or care facility.
4.Telehealth for specialist access in rural or remote locations
There are situations where access to specialist diagnostics or simply specialist doctors may be an issue. This is where telemedicine helps small communities or small medical facilities. When the specialist consultation is required, the facility or a patient may organize the meeting with the specialist online for the patient, or teleconference between medical staff to discuss treatment or the need to deliver the patient to a bigger facility that would include all the necessary clinical data and reduce the costs for both the facility and the patient.
5. Telemedicine for surgery
Telemedicine also has its uses in the most critical, life-saving medical operations. During surgery, telehealth is usually employed in one of two scenarios – teleconsulting with another specialist or a team during the operation, or by remotely using surgical equipment.
In the first use instance, surgeons working on especially complicated or rare conditions will benefit from an expert opinion of a doctor that has met with such a case, or simply a second pair of eyes. Telemedicine allows for such a connection even from across the globe.
The second instance features a number of specialist, remote-controlled tools, allowing for an operation to take place even when the surgeon is not physically present in the room. This solution both reduces the risks of a medical mistake and allows for saving valuable operating room and doctor’s time.
6. Telemedicine for post-surgery and post-intensive care monitoring
After the surgery, patients need to be monitored – both to oversee their healing process and to check the state of their health. With telehealth solutions, this monitoring process can be conducted remotely, and the data that is collected may automatically reach the doctor. The case is similar when it comes to treating intensive care patients. They also need to be closely monitored to check the progress of their healing.
Such monitoring solutions may work both in medical facilities – to provide greater care to recovering patients in-facility and provide doctors with constant medical data access- or later, in the patients’ homes. Post-surgery or post-intensive care treatment at home also provides patients with the required education – as the doctor can remotely give them advice on how to fix bandages or drains apart from checking their status.
7. Telemedicine in patient transport
Telehealth solutions may also help with the most acute cases, especially when the patient is transported to the medical facility. During transport, both the medical team in the ambulance and the doctors in the hospital will benefit from any additional information that can be provided.
Telehealth solutions enable the ambulance teams immediate access to the specialist and additional information in transport. On the other hand, the emergency room staff will get instant data on the state of the transported patient and will have more time to prepare treatment as the ambulance reaches the hospital.
8. Telemedicine in psychiatry
Psychiatry is a perfect medical branch for telemedicine, as it benefits from what even the simplest telehealth solutions are good at – repetitive monitoring of patients’ health status and adjusting the medical response accordingly. As most psychiatric treatment is long-term and the psychiatrist knows the patient, the doctor can benefit from every form of contact. What is more, when the patient contacts the doctor from home, they are more at ease than in a clinical setting, which benefits psychiatric treatment as well.
9. Telehealth in nursing
Basic telehealth also allows a qualified nurse to complete the medical treatment that the patient requires. Many of the daily tasks of a medical nurse may be conducted remotely. Nurses may conduct checks on patients – especially the elderly or infant ones, to monitor their basic health level, conduct triage for further medical care, or help with simple and urgent cases. Routine pre-hospitalization and post-hospitalization care can also be conducted by a telehealth nurse – reducing the amount of work placed on the doctors to more complicated cases.
10. Telehealth in medical education
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many countries introduce online lessons – if the children can learn this way, why not do it with medical practitioners? Telehealth learning solutions include basic ones, like online lessons or teleconferences, as well as recordings of more complicated treatments, through video live-transmissions of surgical operations or simulated remote treatment or diagnosis. Telehealth solutions for learning are many.
11. Telehealth in medical data collection
Data is key in the modern world and telehealth solutions make both passing and collecting medical data much easier. Using telemedicine patients, clinics and hospitals can create a comprehensive database of a patient’s health, combining different sources the medical data may come from into one.
12. Telehealth in new medical solution development
Anonymized patient data may help develop new medical solutions (as is now the case with COVID-19, where doctors work on huge databases of medical data to verify e.g. methods of transmission and frequency of symptoms in different areas).
13. Telemedicine in physical rehabilitation
Physical rehabilitation consists of many different areas – but many of them can be conducted by the patient at home, after prior training. Telemedicine allows medical staff to both oversee the rehabilitation at home, give advice, and train the patient in their daily life, not in the hospital surroundings. It lowers the chance of re-admission and again, leaves the facilities available for the more complicated cases.
Telemedicine is currently applicable in all sectors of medicine, and both patients and medical staff will benefit from it. Solutions such as HIGO will help medical staff diagnose patients with ease and more certainty in the basic treatment, and there are numerous tools that doctors will use in other areas.