Convenient access to doctors, nurse practitioners and medical services is the driving force behind the growth of the telemedicine industry, which has expanded to include a full circle of virtual healthcare services ranging from mental health consultations to video triage to live patient imaging.
Telemedicine is in a constant state of evolution as advancements in technology provide opportunities for new approaches to the delivery of care. As a result, there are many forms of telemedicine currently available. Let’s look at some of the most common and prevalent types of virtual healthcare available in Canada today:
Live video consultations
Likely the most well-known type of telemedicine used today is live video conferencing. Just as the name implies, this method of telemedicine involves the use of a live, two-way, and video-based conferencing that occurs between the healthcare provider and the patient seeking care. With on-demand live video medical conferencing, patients can eliminate commute and waiting times, taking time off work, and the stress and costs associated with these inconvenient factors. It also helps to provide healthcare services in areas, usually rural locations, that don’t have as many healthcare options as more urban populations.
Remote patient monitoring
This type of telemedicine, also referred to as RPM, is often used in senior living communities or among patients dealing with chronic conditions. With remote patient monitoring, a doctor or nurse practitioner has the ability to collect, review and monitor their patients’ real-time health data from a residential or home setting.
Also referred to as mHealth, mobile health is when smart devices like tablets, smartwatches and smartphones are used along with health-based software apps to support ongoing healthcare. There are a wide array of health-based device and app pairings present today that can monitor everything from a person’s daily water intake to a diabetic individual’s blood sugar levels.
Whether we choose to incorporate mHealth into our lives on our own accord, or a healthcare provider requests such monitoring, all of these platforms are designed to encourage us to follow healthier lifestyles and take more responsibility for our health. They can also be integrated with our personal health records and history through digital records.
Mobile health will continue to evolve dramatically as the use of mobile devices continues to grow globally. If you use your phone at least once a day, you too can benefit from telemedicine and mHealth.
Store and forward
Store and forward telemedicine involves the collection and electronic sending of clinical information to another site for evaluation. The participating doctor or health professional uses a mobile device or desktop computer to electronically send patient information — usually medical history, laboratory results, medical imaging, video and/or sound files — to another professional using a private network, or uploads it to a secure website.
Some benefits of and specific uses for store-and forward telemedicine include:
- The specialist, general practitioner, and patient don’t have to be available at the same time, which improves the convenience and efficiency of the consultation process
- There’s no need to travel as participants can be located anywhere around the world and connected virtually
- Waiting times are reduced and specialist reports are usually received in a few hours of being requested
- It’s fast and easy to get a second medical opinion
- Outpatient appointments are freed up for the patients who need them the most
- Radiologists can review x-rays that have been taken at a remote location – even after-hours
- Images of a wound or visible health issue can be taken by a junior doctor working in an emergency department and then sent to a supervising doctor for quick review and direction
- The digital images related to a patient’s skin condition can be sent by their general practitioner to a dermatologist to be diagnosed without requiring the patient to travel; the same process can be applied to ophthalmology and other specialties
Modern telemedicine is being used to help bridge a large gap that used to exist between doctors and patients, and to empower patients to gain more control of their own healthcare. It also allows healthcare providers more time to review individual cases, providing a higher level of care overall. Would you like to take advantage of virtual healthcare? Click here for more information.