Telemedicine brings back the old-fashioned house call, with a modern twist. As business health costs continue to rise, many are turning to telemedicine as a solution. Many years ago, a family with a sick child could call their doctor, and, in a couple of hours, see him or her at the front curb, emerging with the well-known “black bag.” Times have changed, but at least when it comes to convenience, what was old is now new again. Now, instead of arriving at your front door, your doctor shows up on your computer screen or even your smartphone. What’s the advantage for businesses? Well, when you add up the time the average employee spends out sick each year or misses work time to go and see a doctor during work hours, the numbers add up very quickly. Businesses are starting to realize the value in employee health and wellness. Rising healthcare costs continue to choke many an annual budget, especially in the last 5 years. Businesses are looking for solutions and, in telemedicine, they have found a powerful one.
Enter The Age of Telemedicine
Telemedicine allows your employees to do anything from emailing for medical advice, talking to a nurse by phone, or scheduling a doctor’s visit through your smartphone. Telemedicine may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as complex as using satellite technology and video-conferencing equipment to conduct a real-time consultation between medical specialists in two different countries. Telemedicine generally refers to the use of communications and information technologies for the delivery of clinical care. Imagine the power this provides the average employer who is seeking to reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity? Telemedicine gets medical advice and care to your employees more quickly and efficiently. It helps them get prescribed medication in less time. It also helps them get important advice to stay home more quickly, before they can spread any contagious conditions to everyone else in the office!
AllyHealth talks to business owners every day and understands these important challenges. AllyHealth’s telemedicine solutions are designed specifically to help small businesses address their overwhelming need to correct rising costs. At AllyHealth, we believe telemedicine has the potential to provide greater access to care while controlling costs, especially in rural areas. Telemedicine can be used for primary care services, remote patient monitoring, medical education and other health-related services. We believe telemedicine can help treat chronic diseases by providing better management via technology, allow greater coordination and management of care, and reduce hospital visits.
In its simplest terms, telemedicine is medical service provided without the physical presence of a physician. Telemedicine, or telehealth as it sometimes is more broadly known (i.e., overall healthcare and not just medical services), also has various legal definitions. For example, in some states, the legal definition includes phone consultations, while in other states the definition is limited to consultations via the Internet (through services such as Skype, for example).
Thus far, telemedicine has generally involved “synchronous” communication—the medical professional and the patient, or the patient’s local provider, interact in “real time,” much like a telephone conversation. This can pose problems when the medical professional and the patient are located in different time zones, or when network access is severely limited—in developing countries, such as Africa, for example. With asynchronous telemedicine, on the other hand, local practitioners or patients provide data whenever they can, using existing communications channels, such as text messaging. There’s no need to network the computers or coordinate across time zones, only to provide each party with access to the information via available satellite channels. At his or her convenience, the physician accesses the data, makes a diagnosis, and prescribes a course of treatment. One of the advantages of telemedicine is it can be used in rural communities where there’s a shortage of physicians (whether in primary care or specialists). This instance provides needed expertise without prohibitive expense or difficult transportation arrangements.
Debates have raged as to whether telemedicine creates a depersonalized experience for the patient or a more personalized one. Some even have referred to telemedicine as a technological extender to conventional care. Whether they like or dislike telemedicine, most analysts agree that it’s here to stay and is becoming more and more widespread.