Of the many ways in which video conferencing is changing the world, one of the most promising is the field of telemedicine, in which telecommunication technologies are used to provide medical care free of geographic boundaries. Telehealth, as it’s often known, is allowing healthcare professionals to increase efficiency, lower costs and provide better care for their patients, which is great news for an overworked healthcare system.
But while telemedicine has the potential to greatly improve the standard of care both in the United States and around the world, to some people, the word conjures fears of cold, impersonal, hands-off automation. This couldn’t be further from the case, and we’ll take this chance to provide a run-down of five exciting ways telemedicine is making healthcare more personable and more effective than ever before.
Thanks to video conferencing, the good old house call is making a comeback. Healthcare provider Uplift Comprehensive Services in Elizabeth City, NC, has started to offer home care in the form of nurse practitioners armed with the latest video conferencing solutions. Patients get the care and attention of a house call and a face-to-face collaboration with a remotely-located physician for a fraction of the price of a traditional physician house call.
Improving Disaster Response
When a natural disaster strikes, hundreds or even thousands of victims may be in need of immediate medical care. Now, thanks to telemedicine solutions, experienced doctors working from a handful of the nation’s most prestigious trauma centers can lend their eyes and ears to paramedics and volunteers thousands of miles away, offering their expert opinions and directing triage operations to greatly reduce the number of casualties in even the most devastating of disasters. It’s not science fiction: it’s a reality, thanks to video conferencing.
In the past, rural patients would have to relocate or commute to a national healthcare hub in order to receive treatment for complicated or rare diseases. But now, because healthcare officials are able to consult and share data quickly and effectively via video conferences, even people in the most remote corners of the country can receive the high-quality treatment they need while living at home.
Extending Access to Mental Health Professionals
The need for increased mental-healthcare availability has been all over the news lately, and once again, video conferencing is providing an elegant, affordable and practical solution. One of the barriers to effective mental healthcare has been the limited supply of experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers; most emergency-care facilities and small local hospitals simply don’t have the staff on-hand to treat patients with complex mental-health needs. But with providers like Premier Psychiatry pioneering the use of healthcare video conferencing, mental health professionals can conference in to locations all over the country, providing diagnoses and suggesting treatment options for patients who would otherwise go underserved.
It’s for Real
For some readers, all these bold predictions may be met with a shrug of disbelief, but according to a recent CIO article, you’ll start to see these changes soon. Bipartisan congressional support of telemedicine and the forward momentum of healthcare reform suggest that more and more decision makers realize the enormously beneficial upside telemedicine offers to the system at large. If you haven’t already seen the changes first-hand – from quicker medical-test turnaround to online doctor appointments – you will soon!
– Dan Lothringer
Dan is a regular contributor to VideoConferencingSpot.com.