The Internet and smartphone is a powerful combination. With more people getting access to the internet and easy ways to communicate across the globe, remote medicine is gearing up for a worldwide strong presence and growth. This is all because remote medicine makes things simpler, easier, and efficient.
A quick consultation with a doctor when you are traveling, specialized consultation in a remote hospital with expert physicians, patient monitoring and ICU-care from patient’s home itself – this and more can be made possible with the help of remote medicine technologies.
What Is Remote Medicine, Anyway?
Remote medicine is any type of medical care, learning or consultation that is made possible without the physical presence of the doctor. It is implemented under different concept names like telemedicine, virtual healthcare, telehealth and many more.
Is Remote Medicine Effective?
In a survey taken by a medical research firm called Parks Associates, it was shown that about 60% of Americans with broadband access were interested in getting remote health care. This does not come as a surprise because most rural hospitals do not necessarily have the expertise required to provide proper consultation and in some cases, there are very few hospitals available for patients to seek quick help. Remote medicine becomes a useful go-to choice in these cases and is quite effective in providing timely health care.
Remote medicine also provides a way for patients to get a second opinion online. It covers a broad range of services ranging from simple store forward telemedicine solutions to real-time remote patient monitoring.
Some real-life case studies have proven how effective remote medicine can be in providing satisfactory healthcare.
Real-Life Remote Medicine Case Studies
A 25-year-old suffering from flu-like symptoms was accurately diagnosed by doctors from the University of Maryland while the patient was at a rural hospital in Cecil County. The doctors were able to diagnose the condition by observing his vital signs and oxygen intake even though they were 60 miles apart thanks to telemedicine technology. As you can see, telemedicine acts as a critical way to provide expert health care to rural populations.
The state of New Mexico in the US has its telemedicine program called the ECHO which focuses on treating mental health and diabetes. What’s more, a telemedicine system put in place by the Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin has seen that about 26% of ICU Patients are more likely to survive since then.
Virtual visits offer a way for physicians to monitor ICU patients around the clock without having to be physically present at the premises of the hospitals where remote ICU services are installed. This technology used by the University of Maryland can help remotely monitor about 110 ICU patients.
A great blessing remote medicine can bring forth is the ability for the patient to receive medical care from the comfort of their home. Traveling and hospital stays can add up to treatment costs and remote medicine can help save these costs. Besides, getting care at home is much more comfortable and non-disruptive to the patient as they feel safe at home and recuperate easily.
Several studies have shown that in-home care, especially in diabetes treatments, has found to have improved results.
What Technologies Are Used?
Most virtual healthcare visits and telemedicine systems depend on video conferences and similar communication technologies to connect the patient with the consulting doctors.
In-home monitoring of patients is also made possible by making use of Bluetooth devices and internet connectivity that sends and receives data to and from a central monitoring server.
Some distance monitoring technologies used to assist remote medicine are:
· Electronic monitoring devices for home use like Electronic stethoscope, Electronic blood pressure monitor, Pulse oximeter, Electronic contact skin surface microscope, Glucometer, and Electrocardiograph
· Communication systems like interactive telephone systems, video conferencing tools, monitors and broadband connectivity
· Specialized devices like nocturnal hemodialysis can be monitored remotely.
· Cloud-based video conferencing and platforms are also gaining priority so that telemedicine services could be made available around the clock without any connectivity issues.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Medicine
Here is a quick rundown on the possible pros and cons of remote medicine
· Helps save health care expenses
· Helps get access to specialist consultation from any remote location
· Increased patient engagement
· Quality patient care made available to in-home patients and rural populations.
· Requires readiness to adopt newer technology and a learning curve will be involved.
· Expensive communication platforms, monitoring tools need to be set up. Related Electronic instruments will also have to be procured by hospitals.
· In-person, doctor-patient interactions may get reduced.
· Policies and regulations need to be drawn up to standardize the remote medicine industry.
Global Applications of Remote Medicine
Every country has its focus on implementing remote medicine systems. For instance, Singapore works in the context of saving health care costs and provides store and forward telemedicine services.
The system in place in Hong Kong is more inclined to provide accurate health information to both patients and doctors.
Canada has been a world leader in applying remote medicine technology and since 1998 more than 100 hospitals have been part of a remote medicine initiative.
The global application of telemedicine systems will have to consider the local laws, jurisdictional reach and healthcare regulations. Patient privacy and health care information are all highly sensitive information, hence these systems must also ensure security and data privacy.