Telemedicine, the use of digital consultations and appointments to deliver healthcare to those who might otherwise lack access to specialized treatment, is a rapidly growing field, expected to grow 14.8% in the next 5 years. But while basic consultations for colds and viruses are increasingly common, other fields are just starting to implement telemedicine practices – and doctors and patients alike are seeing the benefits.
Whether you’re a doctor considering implementing telehealth in your practice or a patient in search of services, these 4 new applications demonstrate the power and demand for such high tech health care.
Connect With Counseling
Many rural areas have a shortage of mental health providers, and even in urban areas, those with full-time jobs can have a hard time finding a treatment that fits into their schedule. Growing access to online therapy through apps like Talkspace, though, can make mental health treatment attainable and affordable, regardless of insurance status.
In fact, online treatment can actually encourage those who otherwise wouldn’t seek treatment to break through the stigma and help those who struggle with depression, anxiety, or agoraphobia to regularly attend appointments despite psychological barriers.
Inpatient addiction treatment is expensive and impractical for many people, but as the addiction crisis in America grows, there are more people seeking substance abuse counseling than ever before. That’s where telemedicine comes into the picture.
Whether a patient can’t access full-time treatment or needs additional care after rehab, telehealth-based addiction treatment is flexible and affordable, and most importantly can help keep patients on track when cravings strike. Because addiction is a lifelong struggle, keeping patients actively invested in the recovery process through telehealth can greatly reduce the likelihood of relapse, filling the gap between NA or AA meetings and making addiction specialists more accessible.
Cutting Down On Complications
America’s military veterans are aging and they’re keeping the VA hospitals busy, but in many cases, these facilities aren’t prepared for the most complicated cases. When things get serious, many VA centers need to transfer patients to larger ICUs – and there isn’t a budget to increase staffing.
By implementing a system or remote consultations, VA doctors have been able to consult with colleagues at major medical centers and receive valuable guidance and prevent complications and transfers. In a study of 23 VA centers using this new model, transfers decreased from 3.46% to 1.99% over the course of 2015.
Continuation of this program promises not only to improve provider knowledge of intensive care practices but also reduce the rate and severity of complications in VA hospitals.
High-risk pregnancies require extensive monitoring, and patients may need to see specialists as often as once a week for months at a time. This isn’t just expensive, but can also be inconvenient, as most maternal-fetal medicine specialists only have practices in major cities. Anyone outside the urban center may have to travel hundreds of miles to appointments.
In order to make this kind of intensive supervision possible, many obstetricians are using a similar model to the VA – telemedicine consultations with maternal-fetal medicine specialists. This allows patients with high-risk pregnancies to receive necessary supervision in their normal doctor’s office. Specialists can tune in via an internet connection and guide obstetricians through the treatment process, improving patient outcomes.
Telemedicine – Summary
Telemedicine offers both direct treatment for patients and guidance for non-specialist physicians and the diversity of this approach is part of what makes it so powerful. Distance, isolation, and lack of local treatment options don’t have to mire patients in poor health when the internet connects everyone.
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