Telehealth means the use of digital information and communication technology such as mobile devices and computers for accessing healthcare services remotely to manage your healthcare functions. Some of these technologies can be used from home or your doctor can use them for improving or supporting healthcare services.
By HEIDI ROSENBERG
There is a range of telehealth tools available for helping you manage your health and receive the necessary health-related services. So, are you taking advantage of telehealth?
Potential and goals of telehealth
Telehealth and technology, in general, have a great potential for improving the quality of healthcare and make it more accessible for a greater number of people. Telehealth will provide more opportunities to make healthcare more efficient, well-coordinated, and closer to your home. Research about telehealth is yet relatively new however it is growing. For instance, research has indicated that telemonitoring of vital signs of people having heart issues and telephone-based support decreases the risk of hospitalization and death due to heart failure and improves the quality of life.
The goals for using telehealth are also called m-health or e-health and they include these things,
— Making health care more accessible for people living in isolated communities and rural areas.
— Make these services easily available and convenient for people suffering from limited time, transportation, and mobility alternatives.
— Provide easier access to medical experts.
— Provide useful support for self-management of health care.
— Improve coordination and communication among members of your health care team and patients.
Here are some tools and examples of telehealth services that will be useful for your health.
Using remote patient monitoring devices
There is a range of technologies available that enable your doctors or health care service providers to monitor your health remotely, those are known as remote patient monitoring devices. Some of these technologies include
— Mobile or web-based apps for uploading info such as blood glucose reading etc.
— Using devices that will measure and transmit information such as blood glucose, blood pressure, and lung function wirelessly.
— Use of wearable devices for automatically recording and transmitting info such as heart rate, tremors, blood glucose, posture control, physical activity, gait, or sleep patterns.
— Home monitoring devices are used for the elderly or people suffering from dementia detecting changes in normal activities such as unexpected falls.
Creation of a patient portal
If you have a primary care clinic you can have an online patient portal. This portal offers you an alternative to emails that is usually an insecure means of communication regarding private medical info. Your portal gives you a more secure online tool for doing things such as communication with the nurses and doctors, request for prescriptions and refills, review the test results and summaries of prior visits, and schedule appointments requesting appointment reminders. When your doctor is a part of a large health care system this portal can act as a single point of communication for the medical experts you need.
Arranging virtual appointments
Many clinics allow you to arrange virtual appointments that can enable you to get a doctor or a nurse online by using video conferencing. These appointments allow you to get ongoing care from regular doctors when an in-person visit is not possible or required. Some other virtual appointments are web-based visits with nurses and doctors. These services can be used for minor illnesses much like the services available at the drop-in clinics. Some of the larger organizations give you access to virtual doctor’s offices which is a part of their overall offerings.
If you log in to a web-based service you are required to answer a series of queries. A doctor or a nurse will prescribe medication, suggest strategies for home care, and recommend extra medical care. The nurses call center similarly, is filled with nurses that use question and answer formats for providing care at your home. But the nursing call center will not diagnose any illness or prescribe any medicine. Although these services are convenient there are certain drawbacks to them.
You can find a range of telehealth tools available on the internet that can help you manage your health and receive the services you will need. The question is are you willing to take advantage of them? Some of these technologies could include the ones that can be used from your home or some might be used by your doctor for improving health care support.