An insight into Telemedicine and its uses
The World Health Organisation defines Telemedicine as “The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
Telemedicine or Telehealth brings together the patient and the provider who are geographically in different places with the help of communication technology. Hence Telemedicine reaches areas which have nil or substandard medical help since there is always a concentration of good medical help in urban areas. Therefore, Telemedicine in essence is “healing from a distance” or as Times magazine puts it “healing by wire.” Telemedicine is used mainly in three different forms.
- It helps the patient and physician to interact with each other and helps in treating the patient when a visit is not essential. This is interactive medicine.
- It helps in storing the records which are used for diagnosis and when necessary can be forwarded to physicians for reference. This is store-and-forward.
- It is used to monitor patients who are chronically ill or whose health parameters need to be monitored continuously. This is remote patient monitoring.
While Telemedicine has many advantages like successfully reaching rural areas, convenience for patients like reduction in time and costs incurred during doctor visits, reduces time consumption for doctors during patients’ initial visits etc, it doesn’t eliminate the need for in-person visits since a thorough physical examination is not possible. Telemedicine has grown multifold even when it was considered experimental at the outset. Though it can never fully replace direct consultations its uses are expected to continue growing like robotic surgeries.