Telemedicine: Enabling Faster, More Accessible Medical Care

teleedicine

Imagine having a medical condition that requires the input or care of an expert physician who is highly trained in that specialty. Now imagine being able to receive such insights and care – even though the medical expert is thousands of miles away – without either of you having to travel to see each other.

Imagine traveling for a long period or moving out of the area and still getting your doctor to “see you,” so to speak. This is the reality of telemedicine, a fast-growing service with incredible potential. Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through technology. It is the exchange of medical information between two or more practitioners or sites that use the internet or electronic communications to help deliver medical services to a patient.

Not to be confused with medical information technology – related more to the management of electronic records and systems – telemedicine is the actual delivery of medical services. It is also not a medical specialty in itself. Rather, it is another way to deliver medical services. In fact, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) notes that, even in the reimbursement fee structure, “There is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine, and [there is] often no separate coding required for billing of remote services.”

According to the ATA, telemedicine is a significant and rapidly-growing component of healthcare in the United States, with about 200 telemedicine networks and 3,500 service sites. “Nearly one million Americans are currently using remote cardiac monitors and, in 2011, the Veterans Health Administration delivered over 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine,” the ATA states on its website, and “over half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.”

THE ATA PROVIDES SOME EXAMPLES OF TELEMEDICINE:

A radiologist interprets medical images coming from four clinics across the state.

A consumer uses a mobile phone to upload vital signs and send it to a remote monitoring center.

A cardiologist talks to a heart transplant patient who is on a business trip, reviews the patient’s chart, and looks at his or her live heart rhythms.

Other examples of telemedicine include home monitoring for elderly patients or people with diabetes, or tele-consultations by an expert in a medical specialty.

Telemedicine (sometimes also called telehealth, which includes non-clinical aspects) uses multiple technologies including email, videoconferencing, wireless tools, online patient portals, electronic transmission of images, and specialty software.

Still only a few decades old, telemedicine has changed dramatically as information technology has grown, improved and become more accessible to more people around the world. Patients who receive care through telemedicine can regularly monitor their vital signs and download health and wellness information and applications to their home computers or mobile devices.

The ATA points out that what began 40-plus years ago with demonstrations of hospitals extending care to patients in remote areas “is now becoming integrated into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices as well as consumers’ homes and workplaces.”

Proponents of telemedicine point out that patients can receive proper medical care with added benefits. The ATA notes the “four fundamental benefits” are improved medical access (physicians can expand their reach in both rural and urban areas), cost efficiencies (through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays), improved quality (with greater outcomes and patient satisfaction), and patient demand (better access without the need to travel).

A study conducted by the RAND Corporation, published in the journal Health Affairs (February 2014), found that using telecommunication services to provide clinical care from a distance resulted in lowered costs and expanded medical access with no increase in clinical misdiagnosis or errors in treatment. The study was the first assessment of a telemedicine program offered to a large, diverse group of patients across the United States.

Worried about privacy and security? The thought of having one’s personal medical information “out there” may be frightening. But medical providers have the same responsibilities and duties utilizing telemedicine as they do with traditional or conventional medicine. A telemedicine practitioner is obligated to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules and must provide the same safety and care to electronic files, images, videos, and transmissions as he or she would give to paper records.

TELEMEDICINE IN ACTION
Beginning this fall, MORGAN MOBILE ORTHODONTICS in Lansdowne, VA, will serve its current and future orthodontic patients via their mobile clinic service. The service will prevent parents from having to take off work and taking their children out of school for orthodontic maintenance visits. This mobile clinic-on-wheels has the same state-of-art equipment found in their office.

Although the application and removal of braces occurs in their office, arch wire changes for your child’s braces is as simple as having them step into their mobile clinic located in the school’s parking lot. They will provide this quick service on certain days of the month at schools that have expressed an interest in the clinic (contact them to check for, or to suggest, your child’s school). A Morgan Orthodontics representative will check your child out of – and back into – school and will be with them the whole time.

Parents receive a confirmation of their child’s orthodontic treatment and state of their oral hygiene.

For more information, call 703.723.5900 or email: [email protected]

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