Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Embracing advances in technology could help the healthcare system address the COVID-19 pandemic and health financial crisis. Besides, the organizations are also aware that digital transformation in healthcare won't magically change overnight. Notwithstanding many failures of the previous program and model, businesses shouldn't give up the idea of harnessing the digital revolution to how healthcare is delivered. Currently, products are being developed at an astonishing rate, from low-level gadgets to traditional telehealth and emerging digital technology, including smartphones, mobile apps, and video consultation.
Advantages of Telehealth
Telehealth offers many convenience and cost-effective solutions for patients and alliance of healthcare workers to see each other without having to leave their site, and more:
Make health services accessible to people living in rural or isolated areas.
Intensify the effectiveness to cut down on the time and expenditure for transportation.
Provide access to medical specialists as well as other allied health workers so the treatment of patients can be consensus and coordinated among healthcare teams.
Give advice and support for home management of health care.
Some of the services that telehealth can provide for the best practice:
1. Patient portal:
Your primary clinic can provide a portal replacing for the email to give patients different communication means. All records and information throughout this portal need security software, ensuring private human rights. The patients can communicate with the doctor and nurse to inform or get advice about their disease, request prescription refills, be reminded for better adherence to the treatment, and set an appointment for the next doctor's visit.
2. Virtual appointments:
The primary clinics can conduct virtual conferences to connect patients with physicians or nurses. Telehealth allows you to receive ongoing care from your regular doctor when an in-person visit isn't necessary or possible, especially because of social distancing or community lockdown.
One of the advantages is that you can arrange your appointment if you feel unwell but too busy with your job schedule and can not set aside your time to match with office hours of clinics. But these services are generally for minor illnesses.
To avoid unnecessary cases that can be checked by primary healthcare staff instead of professionals, some providers will have a nursing call center that uses a series of questions to collect helpful information about the customer's condition. They have to receive continuing education or training, and they can be in charge of making primary records but cannot diagnose or prescribe medications.
3. Remote monitoring
Various technologies can examine the patient's condition according to specific biochemical indexes, including web-based or mobile apps for uploading information by text or images such as blood glucose, blood pressure, or heart rate. These figures also can collect from wearable devices that measure and wirelessly transmit information.
4. Doctors consult with doctors or other allied health workers.
Primary doctors can get input from specialists when they have any concerns about diagnosis and treatment or the complex cases that need to be consulted among health professionals for the best practice. Doctor practitioners can conduct a virtual conference with clinical pharmacies to review medical reconciliations and prescriptions.
5. Personal health record:
A collection about your health may establish on a software account, for example, that you can control and maintain. This online record is accessible to you anytime via web-enabled devices like smartphones, laptops, or tablets. In an emergency room, a personal health record can help doctors quickly review vital information, including current acute or chronic disease diagnosis, medications, drug allergies, or even your previous doctor's contact. This app will be the most beneficial when you move from a local hospital/ clinic to a center or large hospital. That information will help your next physician diagnose better and prevent medical errors.
6. Personal health apps:
Multiple apps have been created to help consumers self-monitor their physical conditions and store them in one secure place. These digital tools can help them record vital signs or physical activities (daily step count), the schedule reminder for taking medicine, etc.
Downsides of telehealth
The goal of telehealth is aiming to provide the best healthcare services by taking advantage of the spectacular development of AI and technologies, but it does have a few downsides:
It is impossible to apply remote visiting for every type of treatment, especially for complex cases or diagnoses that require a more hands-on approach. And sometimes, wearable devices that are way more expensive and cumbersome for patients to possess on their own will also hinder.
The security of personal health data transmitted and stored electronically is still controversial, so the government and authorities may not forcefully enact regulations for telehealth.
There are still many costs of telehealth that have not been covered by health insurance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some health organizations will offer free services to save the communities, but with the more severe cases transferred to the hospitals or ICU, the expenditure is not fully covered by insurance, which may lead to out-of-pocket expenses.
Mayo Clinic. 2020. Telehealth: Technology meets health care.
NEJM. 2018. What Is Telehealth?. NEJM Catalyst