The potential to join our health and our devices goes far beyond our health apps and FitBits — the future of our health lies in telemedicine.
What is telemedicine, anyway?
The American Telemedicine Association defines telemedicine as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.”
Harnessing the power of today’s lightning-fast internet connections, patients and doctors can use webcams, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology to receive and administer care.
Why is it so important?
In many rural parts of California and across the U.S., millions of people live in areas where hospitals and clinics are sparse and long distances away — but an internet connection is readily available. The ability to speak to a medical professional about a potential health concern via webcam, chat, or phone from the comfort of home is an incredible convenience.
Additionally, smaller hospitals in rural areas may not be able to have certain specialists on site 24/7. Today, there are virtual care services that can provide remote support for patients in intensive-care units and emergency rooms.
People with chronic illnesses can also benefit from new telehealth technologies that allow them to relay their vital signs to their doctors, and better manage their condition.
What’s the catch?
Despite the fact that more than 15 million people received a form of remote medical care last year, telehealth and telemedicine are still relatively new, and challenges remain.
Medical professionals need time to adjust to new techniques. Health-related policies must be updated in order to better accommodate new systems of care. Insurance companies must decide whether and which telehealth services to cover.
The future of telemedicine looks bright, but it’s not the new standard quite yet. Learn more about the state of telemedicine here.