Gone are the days of going to a doctor’s office– today we live in a world where it is possible, and feasible, to access professional health care services through the comfort of your own home. The field of telemedicine, which is a specialized branch of the broader telehealth category, seeks to improve patient health by opening a two-way communication channel between patient, and provider, no matter the distance.
What used to be seen as an expensive, futuristic way of delivering services has now grown to a common, more cost-effective manner than traditional face-to-face physical examinations. Supplementary technology services, especially video conferencing, that build upon existing radio/mobile telephony ICTs have been key to the growth of telemedicine. Telemedicine uses a unique combination of the following three sects to provide real- time consultations, testings, monitoring and medical procedures over geographical barriers: 1. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) 2. Patient Data Storage and 3. Interactive telemedicine.
In recent years, RPM has grown rapidly, allowing for substantial decreases in health care costs. More sophisticated devices allow patients who suffer from chronic diseases to transmit information, like blood pressure or sugar levels, to a central monitoring station from which a doctor can review it and stay up to date with his patient’s progress from virtually anywhere, any time. This data taken from RPM is kept stored in a network of numerous pieces of equipment, each with a unique storage feature. Data stores combine to form a patient’s complete medical history which is able to be backed up, secured, and forwarded to necessary personnel. Telemedicine then employs the use of interactive features, like video conferencing, to allow for a real time patient to provider or provider to provider communication.
Telemedicine has shown promise, especially in places like Kenya, where often times patients die not from their ailments, but rather from misdiagnoses and subsequent mistreatment. Providers can connect with their colleagues in order to ensure a proper diagnosis and correct course of treatment. This is especially helpful when looking at the skill and training gaps between doctors in developing nations and doctors in more developed ones. In this sense, good health care becomes available to those who previously suffered unnecessarily at the hands of poorly trained physicians.
Of course, there are still issues of accessibility in accordance with a nation’s networked readiness, but the future of telemedicine looks bright as we continue to shift our everyday lives more and more towards technological reliance.