In today's on-demand world, consumers have the luxury of receiving information and services almost instantaneously. The rapid growth of telehealth in the healthcare industry supports the notion that consumers do in fact expect more convenience from their healthcare providers, and will contact physicians more often if a convenient method is provided to them.
What is telehealth? Telehealth, sometimes referred to as telemedicine, is a means of using telecommunication technologies for delivering and enhancing healthcare between patients and healthcare providers. This communication can happen in real-time or as a store-and-forward manner. In the real-time communication scenario, a patient and a healthcare practitioner may communicate through a live audio or video feed via phone, webcam, or some other technological means. In the store-and-forward example, a patient's digital images or exam results may be transmitted to a healthcare provider for a diagnosis. All telehealth systems require health information technology (health IT) such as the use of electronic health records (EHRs) or clinical decision support systems (CDSSs).
Telehealth offers many benefits to consumers. Not only does it provide time-saving access to healthcare, but it also creates an accessible means by which individuals can receive the care they need even if patient and physician are thousands of miles apart. In addition to being beneficial to consumers, healthcare professionals have much to gain from telehealth as well.
Telehealth can assist hospitals, healthcare organizations and emergency care centers to deal with the shortage of healthcare professionals in a present and effective way. Health institutions and care groups are able to access and care for patients in remote locations or in emergency situations with their existing, and sometimes limited, staff.
The accessibility telehealth provides also permits healthcare organizations to save time and develop better training materials to staff. Telehealth technologies store patient information in an organized manner, such as their reason for establishing contact and how they are managing their chronic diseases, allowing health practitioners to compare or update patient records for better medical decision-making, which leads to a more efficient workflow and improved patient care.
By adopting telehealth, healthcare providers can serve more patients and establish long-lasting relationships with them. This creates recurring revenue as patients will be more likely to reach out to providers who can accommodate to the needs and convenience of their patients without sacrificing on quality of care. Telehealth also allows providers and patients to consult specialized physicians to obtain further training or expert opinion, saving on travel time, and expenses.
In short, telehealth has great potential for advancing medical treatment to remote patients or to those that are managing chronic diseases. This technology has shown that providers can do more with limited resources by sharing professional staff across health networks, improve efficiency through better diagnosis and management of diseases, provide quality care, and reduce overall costs. It is an effective tool that healthcare organizations should consider adopting to meet the ever-changing demands of the healthcare industry and patients.
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