Healthcare technology, including telemedicine and virtual care, is streamlining the ways that Canadians communicate with medical staff and professionals. This is ultimately reducing roadblocks like busy schedules, long wait times, inability to book convenient appointments or proximity to healthcare facilities — factors that are hindering patients’ ability to seek timely care, according to many studies.
Today, rather than having to go to their doctor’s offices or walk-in clinics with a non-urgent health concern, patients have the ability to interface with Canadian healthcare providers on-demand, from the comfort and convenience of their home or office, through instant live text and video chat.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of medicine paired with the provision or assistance of patient care at a distance, using information and communication technologies.
Telemedicine is in a constant state of evolution as advancements in technology provide opportunities for new approaches to the delivery of care. The specific technology that can be used is constantly evolving and can be as basic as email correspondence with a healthcare provider, and as robust as live video consultations with real-time blood pressure evaluation and virtual otoscope examination via high-tech imaging devices.
Originally developed in the U.S. as a basic method for addressing healthcare shortages in extremely rural areas, today telemedicine in various forms is employed all over the world — from providing general healthcare provisions in third-world countries to allowing patients who suffer from mobility issues to obtain medical care while remaining in their homes.
Ultimately, modern telemedicine has the ability to break down geographical barriers to care and to help make the healthcare delivery model much more convenient for patients globally. But while convenience is at the core of telemedicine and virtual healthcare, let’s look at some of their other advantages:
Telemedicine improves health monitoring
With telehealth and telemedicine, patients and their healthcare providers gain access to an online record of all appointments, diagnosis and treatment options. As a result, patients can easily keep track of their health, when additional care is needed and more.
Virtual care improves access to patients for doctors
Telemedicine isn’t just beneficial for patients — it’s equally beneficial for care providers. In fact, supplementing just one patient visit per year with virtual healthcare may save primary care physicians an average of five minutes per appointment, freeing up 47.8 million hours across the primary care workforce to see additional patients and accommodate urgent appointments, according to a 2018 report by the Harvard Business Review.
Telemedicine reduces readmissions
With patients who suffer from acute health issues, including chronic illnesses and infections, it is often challenging to avoid repeated readmissions to clinics and hospitals. With telemedicine and video consults, however, doctors are able to remain in close contact with a higher number of acute and chronic patients, providing better opportunity to assess them for emerging symptoms, health changes and problems before they necessitate readmission.
Digital healthcare cuts costs with remote monitoring
With remote patient monitoring technology, patients can be monitored on an ambulatory basis when, in the past, they had to be monitored as in-patients. With the high costs related to inpatient services, moving some types of observation to the outpatient format helps to reduce costs paid by the public healthcare system.
Virtual care reduces ER visits with at-home triage
With at-home triage for non-emergency health issues thanks to instant, on-demand medical consultations, Canadians can often avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room, which are costly for patients in terms of their time and for the public healthcare system financially. With virtual healthcare, a nurse practitioner or doctor can assess the concern via live video chat and either confirm the need to seek urgent care, provide an at-home treatment plan, write a prescription or make a non-urgent referral to a specialist in seconds.
With the latest advances in telemedicine and robust on-demand virtual healthcare platforms taking the healthcare industry by storm, patients, health benefits providers and employers alike must stay up-to-date with this evolution to ensure they leverage the best available technologies.
When implementing these innovative tools, healthcare as we know it becomes a completely new experience marked by convenience and continuity. The most exciting part? Healthcare in Canada will continue to revolutionize as improved technological advances are made.