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Introduction to Telemedicine: Your Comprehensive Guide

Technology has brought a great revolution in the medical industry, and healthcare workers and providers are constantly looking for better ways to provide healthcare services to patients.

Telemedicine is one of the leading sources of providing healthcare services to patients in remote locations. Despite tantalizing workloads, lack of accessibility, and low availability of healthcare, anyone can get high-quality healthcare services through the telemedicine platform.

So, what is telemedicine? This article has a detailed introduction to telemedicine to help you find the answers to the above questions and understand its various aspects. Also, learn about how telemedicine works and what are its countless benefits.

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Let’s dive in.

What is Telemedicine?

Over the past three decades, a lot of researchers, clinicians, and health experts have laid a great emphasis on the integration of telecommunications and advancing technology for the betterment of healthcare facilities. That is why now we have telemedicine — a successful innovation of the modern era. Telemedicine is an umbrella term encompassing many technologies and applications currently being used to promote public research and the advancement of medical services and facilities. Telemedicine’s definition often gets confused with telehealth as both the terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact they are different.

Telemedicine Definition and Background

Telemedicine can be defined as a combination of communication and information technologies to provide standard health care to distant participants. However, this term is not new; the background of telemedicine comes from the early 20th century. Around the 1960s, telephones were being used by healthcare professionals to guide and give health advice to patients. With the advancement of telecommunications, telemedicine also adapted new technologies, devices, and methods. It is sometimes also referred to as ‘digital practice’ in the current era. Today, its spectrum is vast, including video conferencing, audio calls, and various other data transmission technologies. In addition, there has been a rapid hike in the telemedicine stocks price in recent years: the Covid-19 pandemic has propagated telemedicine to new heights. As a result, a large population of the United States is shifting to virtual medicine services from traditional health care visits.

What Are the Telemedicine Regulations by the State?

The United States of America does not provide a standardized license that could work for the health professionals throughout the country, hence why each state has its regulations and licensure processes for telemedicine. Therefore, a physician can only get a permit for practice issued for that particular state. Telemedicine regulations by the state were established back in 2014 when the Federation of State Medical Boards passed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact to help facilitate medical practitioners with their interstate practice. A physician can apply for a medical license to practice telemedicine in their home state or in another state. The verification from the home state is a big go-ahead. However, such regulations have been significantly eased in the Corona Virus pandemic. Currently, many conditions permit emergency licenses to physicians licensed in other states who may assist with this health emergency.

Are Telemedicine and E-health Similar?

E-health is an umbrella term representing the entire health industry and is considered equivalent to e-commerce involving telematics and medical informatics, whereas telemedicine is just a market niche. E-health is broader and more directed towards the business side, while telemedicine provides healthcare facilities to distant participants. Telemedicine and e-health are sometimes used interchangeably, but both terms represent different meanings and goals.

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What Are the Three Types of Telemedicine?

The introduction of telemedicine in the health industry has positively influenced healthcare quality, reliability, and availability for people living in distant locations. In general, telemedicine is categorized into three types further associated with sub-types. They are as follows,

  • Store-and-forward. In this type of telemedicine, the patient does not have to meet the practitioner. Instead, all the medical documents such as medical reports, images, and lab data can be transferred to the specialist.
  • Remote monitoring. Other names for remote monitoring are ‘self-monitoring’ and ‘self-testing’. In this type of telemedicine, different technological devices are used to monitor the patient’s health status and clinical signs.
  • Real-time interactive service. This type of telemedicine is an interactive service that provides immediate advice and medical attention to patients.

There are also many subtypes of real-time interactive services, such as; telenursing, telepharmacy, and telerehabilitation. Telenursing refers to the promotion of nursing services through telecommunication technology. Telepharmacy gives patients pharmaceutical advice through digital channels such as online appointments through websites, live chats, and apps when getting in contact with pharmacists is impossible. Similarly, telerehabilitation refers to providing rehabilitation consultation and advice through online communication channels. As a result, the introduction of telemedicine to the health industry has turned out to be a successful step in enhancing the accessibility of healthcare services to people who have a limited approach to direct visits and facilities.

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Types of Telemedicine

The Main Advantages of Telemedicine

The idea of telemedicine is to overcome the barriers associated with healthcare delivery and develop equity and welfare for everyone to receive necessary healthcare resources and intervention. The background of telemedicine and the current data suggests that telemedicine has been convenient both from the patient and health professional’s perspective.

How Telemedicine Is Used by Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals are using telemedicine for various clinical and non-clinical purposes. The clinical uses of telemedicine by healthcare professionals are as follows;

  • The professionals extensively use telemedicine for the evaluation, urgent care, and management of patients who might need transfers, decisions, and quick responses.
  • Healthcare professionals who cannot reach their patients use telemedicine for supervision and providing primary care and can also give prescriptions. For example, mental health experts can prescribe ADHD telemedicine Adderall to people dealing with ADHD through online consultations.
  • Health care professionals are actively using telemedicine to promote good health and wellness. For example, people struggling with obesity can contact a telemedicine doctor for phentermine prescription or advice.
  • Professionals use telemedicine to track the provisions of treatment, symptoms, and progress of their patients over time.
  • Healthcare professionals widely conduct the follow-up care and supervision of patients with chronic health ailments and their regular status tracking.
  • Telemedicine appointment is very easily delivered to the patients hence why healthcare professionals can carry their sessions with their patients more frequently and stay updated with their progress.
  • Telemedicine urgent care for patients with immediate care or emergency care is being used by professionals and specialists who are not available at the moment.
  • Telemedicine is not just limited to treating humans: vet telemedicine has also advanced in the past year, offering many healthcare services to pets.

The Non-clinical Uses of Telemedicine

  • Telemedicine is a significant source of education for distant patients and is considered one of the most excellent tools for this purpose.
  • Nowadays, health professionals use telemedicine to supervise, research, and expand healthcare networks.
  • Telemedicine is an intelligent way to manage patient databases, records, listings, and overall monetizing of the healthcare system.

However, telemedicine benefits are far beyond the efficiency and convenience of professionals. In actuality, this solution is also fully enjoyed by the patients.

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How Telemedicine Helps Patients

The broader aspects of telemedicine for patients are as follows;

  • Telemedicine has made healthcare possible for patients in remote locations.
  • When it comes to patients that are either bedridden or disabled, traveling to their therapist becomes tantalizing. So, telemedicine is the perfect solution for those who have mobility restrictions or are ill to travel.
  • Telemedicine increases the autonomy of self-management and online self-monitoring.
  • Scheduling therapy online via telemedicine is extremely convenient. Patients can schedule their online sessions according to their ease.
  • Telemedicine gives every resident an equal opportunity to utilize public resources despite societal, financial, and mobility barriers.
  • Patients do not have to rely entirely on the traditional medical system. Instead, telemedicine benefits for patients help secure privacy and self-esteem for patients who are less confident in getting into the process of medical check-ups, especially for patients with mental health issues.
  • Digital connection of patients with their therapists through telemedicine has shown increased encouragement in patients to get help for their mental health issues because they can do it from their homes.
  • Post-surgical patients and those requiring rehabilitation have better health outcomes while receiving their treatment plan at home via telemedicine. The home environment seems to positively impact the patient’s minds compared to the hospital environment.

Considering all the above, it is obvious why online doctor visits and telecommunication for health care services are becoming more and more popular. Moreover, telemedicine benefits are not just limited to accessibility and ease, they also give advantage in the terms of cost. While people can have concerns regarding billings and copays, the great thing about telemedicine is that many insurance companies cover it, including Medicare.

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Is telemedicine covered by insurance?

How to Implement Telemedicine in Your Healthcare Organization?

It all started with the American telemedicine association that was established in 1993 as a non-profit organization with a clear vision of promoting health benefits. Today, many health care organizations are using telemedicine for various health benefits throughout the United States of America. Here is a list of the most popular ones that use these new solutions for different purposes.

Telemedicine for the Treatment of Chronic Medical Issues

Telemedicine urgent care services are used by many health care organizations such as Sesame Care, which offers help regarding chronic health issues including; skin, dental, mental health, diabetes, and sleep care. You can even book a same-day telemedicine appointment, and the prices are affordable. PlushCare is another healthcare organization offering same-day telemedicine appointments for various health issues. The organization is even offering refills on common prescriptions, excluding controlled substances. You can get a monthly membership which also has coverage for health insurance.

Telemedicine for the Treatment of Mental Health Issues

Medvidi is one of America’s leading telemedicine providers in the area of mental health issues. It has successfully utilized this user-friendly technology to increase access to high-quality mental healthcare services to individuals suffering from different conditions, including ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Other areas of Medvidi telehealth services include:

  • Insomnia treatment
  • OCD treatment
  • Weight loss management
  • Dealing with panic attacks and phobias
  • Treating chronic fatigue syndrome
  • ESA Letter

Medvidi telemedicine services reduce the cost and availability of mental health experts for patients and offer the following:

  • Effective treatment plans
  • Mental health therapies
  • Prescription drugs and refills
  • Counseling sessions
  • Meditation guides
  • Lifestyle modifications advice

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Telemedicine for the Treatment of Nonemergency Medical Issues and Pediatrics

Teladoc is one of the first telemedicine providers in America. The company provides various services such as:

  • Help with dermatological issues
  • Treating non-emergency medical conditions
  • Pediatric medical services
  • Sexual health consultations
  • Mental health consultations

Teladoc also gives you many other services, including providing prescriptions, insurance coverage, and analyzing lab reports.

Telemedicine for Lab Test Analysis and Prescription

As discussed above, health organizations such as Teladoc offer patients prescriptions and lab test analyses. Another significant example of an organization using a telemedicine platform to deliver health services is MeMD. You just have to create an account on the MeMD website, and once it gets activated, you can talk to any nurse or doctor practitioner. MeMD also offers telemedicine urgent care services to patients.

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telemedicine urgent care

Telemedicine for Consultations and Counseling

Health care organizations such as iCliniq use telemedicine to provide consultation services across the country. You can either post a question, or have a phone consultation, or you can even go for an online video option.

Telemedicine for General Care Through a Mobile App

The famous company Amwell, founded by two brothers who are doctors by profession, is offering its telemedicine service for general health care management through its mobile application. The application is compatible with both iPhone and Android.

Vet Telemedicine Services

There are numerous health care organizations for animals offering vet telemedicine services, including:

  • Televet
  • Chewy
  • Pawp
  • Virtuwoof

All of them offer various urgent care, emergency help general care, consultation, and prescription facilities in the United States.

How Can You Implement Telemedicine in Your Healthcare Organization?

The future of telemedicine is even brighter than today, and sooner or later, every healthcare organization will have to implement it, considering the sky-rocketing patient positive feedback trends. Fortunately, now there are many ways to implement telemedicine solutions in your healthcare organization, so you can offer multiple services digitally through direct calls, emails, text messages, video calls, etc.

Generally, telemedicine services are replacing in-person doctor visits and offer the following facilities:

  • Assessing patients
  • Prescribing medications
  • Providing consultation
  • Treating mental health disorders
  • Treating minor medical conditions
  • Managing emergency conditions
  • Offering veterinary services

You can allow insurance coverage from major providers and make sure that the telemedicine services are cost-effective for patients who don’t have insurance.

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Problems With Telemedicine

Although it brings a lot of advantages, you must learn the limitations of telemedicine before incorporating it into your healthcare organization. The problems with telemedicine are categorized into the areas explained below.

Patient-related Problems

The availability of many options can cause confusion and discontinuity among the patients searching for the best.
There could be a problem related to language barriers.
Some patients might not feel comfortable using a digital platform and the virtual communication model with the health professionals.

Funding and Insurance-related Problems

Not every health care organization and insurance provider is integrated for the coverage of healthcare services. There is a big challenge with reimbursement.

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problems with telemedicine

Technology-related Problems

  • Internet connectivity, speed, and availability remain considerable limitations of telemedicine in areas with poor internet coverage.
  • The knowledge and education of using different apps, software, and devices add up to the problems of telemedicine.
  • Patients and healthcare professionals would have to get used to virtual behavior.

Research-related Problems

  • Telemedicine needs to be delivered strictly following the evidence-based approach.
  • The healthcare worker would have to strictly apply clinical reasoning to fulfill the codes of conduct.
  • The constant check on the outcomes, patients’ progress, and prognosis get very complicated. Any gap in data can have a negative impact on the quality of health service delivered.

The Takeaway

Telemedicine is a great way to provide adequate and most cost-effective health services to patients with equitable resources and availability. Despite the problems associated with using telemedicine for the delivery of healthcare services, every healthcare provider in the United States of America finds the introduction of telemedicine to their company turning out to be highly successful and convenient in providing high-quality healthcare to patients.

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