How have information and communication technologies, such as online, digital and mobile devices, figured in the wider spectrum of patient care?
The use of these technologies to access and support health care services, also known interchangeably as telehealth, digital health, or mhealth depending on the device, draws strength from the power of communication and information.
These serve patients and clinicians differently but with a unified objective, to provide better and more effective information to both. And it all converges to efficiently manage healthcare.
According to Mayo Clinic, telehealth’s goal is:
Make healthcare accessible to people who live in rural or isolated communities
Make services more readily available or convenient for people with limited mobility, time or transportation options.
Provide access to medical specialists
Improve communication and coordination of care among members of a health care team and a patient
Provide support for self-management of health care
From patient monitoring to coordinated patient care, the bottom line goals of telehealth are accessibility and empowerment.
But how has telehealth been leveraged by clinicians, and how have patients benefited from it? Here are some ways telehealth improves patient experience and increases patient safety.
An Easily Accessible Communication Hub
Telehealth is more than just email, text or a phone call to set doctor appointments or reminders for scheduled consultations.
At one end of the spectrum, It can be used to run diagnostic tests, or remind patients of vaccine or other preventive care procedures, be part of patient monitoring or something as simple as request prescription refills.
Doctor appointments can even be carried out via teleconference, e-visits or a virtual consultation when an in-person visit is not possible. While this is generally for minor illnesses, ongoing care is simplified this way, by enabling the patient to “see” the doctor online via video and not have to travel through city traffic or hundreds of miles which is more common than you would think.
An e-visit can also be through a web portal on a computer, laptop or through a mobile app where specific questions are generated, or when home care strategies and/or additional medical care are needed as part of a treatment plan.
Telehealth enables two-way communication between patients and healthcare providers, as well as interactions between physicians and health care professionals, to become a hub to communicate and facilitate patient services.
Doctors can take advantage of this technology with patients or amongst themselves to share exam notes, patient/treatment history, test results, while specialists can review and respond electronically.
As a communication hub, telehealth reduces wait times to deliver services to patients, coordinate diagnosis and specialist input, and eliminate unnecessary travel.
Remote Monitoring for an Improved Healthcare Experience
Web-based platforms, mobile apps, or wearable devices that record blood glucose readings, blood pressure, monitor diet, and exercise level, or measures physical activity and sleep patterns, have changed patient behavior. Previously a reactive option, technology has enabled patients to play an active part in their health, treatment, and recovery.
Telehealth technologies used for remote monitoring don’t just measure and record vital signs or set to remind patients to take their medications, they can communicate with a patient as if sitting in front of a clinician but on an automated and remote way. With the data transmitted to their health record. Systems are designed where notifications or alerts can be sent to the care team when changes, either as a trend or on a more immediate basis, vital to the patient’s conditions are detected, making more immediate intervention possible.
Enable Easily Accessible Health Records
When medical records and personal health information are organized and stored in one secure place, they become readily available, anytime, anywhere, by anyone. Telehealth can collect, control and maintain these health and medical records to be accessible via web-enabled devices, such as your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
The accessibility of health records cannot be overstated, especially in emergency response. This depository of information, such as current diagnoses, medications, drug allergies and the primary health provider’s contact details, must be made available anytime and anywhere - it’s accessibility is vital to patient safety.
No patient wants to make daily trips to see a doctor just to manage his health, nor does a doctor wants to see the same patient every day to ensure that. Telehealth is removing the inconvenience and costs.
In this way, Telehealth becomes that effective enabler, hub, and conduit of efficient and coordinated health services in the continuum of care. Taking this technology further is LifeWIRE. Text "discover" to 72982 (in Canada Text "discover" to 647-503-0510) to find out how a communication platform is being used for population management providing the insights you need, through personalized, automated remote dialogue.