Telemedicine is an effective and cost-saving alternative to traditional medical care. With telecare, doctors and other medical specialists deliver care to patients virtually through video conferencing or a web-based video app.
Telemedicine allows doctors to reach patients anywhere. It is especially valuable to patients in rural, underserved and remote areas who might not otherwise have access to care. It is also helpful for seniors who wish to remain in their home and receive care where they are most comfortable.
So, is telemedicine effective? Can doctors really deliver care virtually? Telemedicine has been around for a long time. It is just now being more widely implemented though. Fortunately, the effectiveness of telemedicine has been well-documented in the literature.1 One study found that telemedicine is as effective as in-person care for Parkinson’s Disorder. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in the United States conducted the study to see if neurologists could deliver exceptional care to patients in the comfort of their own homes. The study consisted of a total of 195 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disorder. They received care either from a neurologist through video conferencing or their primary care physician. The study found that the virtual specialist visits were just as effective as the office-based visits. In addition to being just as effective as traditional care, video visits saved an average of 100 miles of travel per visit and 169 minutes of time for patients.2
In another example of telehealth’s effectiveness, Valley Health health care system, located in the U.S. realized significant benefits after instituting telemedicine. During the first year of instituting telemedicine, the ICU length of stay was decreased by 34 percent. The hospital said that more than 125 lives were saved as a result of this technology. Sepsis fatalities were reduced significantly.3
What Conditions Can Telemedicine Be Used To Treat?
Telemedicine can be used to treat many medical conditions that are not emergencies. It can be used for everything from behavioural health to primary care. Here are a few of the conditions that can be treated via telehealth services:
- Coughs and colds – Most mild coughs don’t necessitate a visit to the doctor’s office. Telemedicine is helpful when a patient has more mild symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough. This reduces the chance of the patient spreading germs in the waiting area. Plus, they can rest at home rather than spending an hour or more at an urgent care clinic. Basic screening questions and additional testing can help rule out more severe conditions, like strep throat, pneumonia and influenza.
- Asthma – Asthma can be monitored through telehealth services. Studies have found that telehealth services combined with additional case management and other types of medical care can help improve patients quality of lives by improving their asthma control.4
- High blood pressure – Remote monitoring equipment can help patients monitor blood pressure at home. It’s more convenient for patients to monitor blood pressure via telehealth services than to come into the office for a visit.
- Gastrointestinal issues – Stomach aches, pains and vomiting can be assessed and treated digitally. Doctors can rule out serious gastro issues and prescribe medications for minor things without the patient ever having to come into the office.
- Rashes and skin issues – Rashes and acne can be treated via telemedicine. Doctors can diagnose common skin conditions and provide prescriptions.
- Mental health issues – Minor mental health issues like anxiety and depression can be treated via telemedicine. Patients can be evaluated by psychiatrists, talk with therapists and more through telehealth services.
- Chronic conditions – Telemedicine is great for treating chronic conditions like diabetes, heart problems and more. Doctors can monitor these illnesses virtually. They can provide changes in prescriptions when needed and order tests if necessary.
- Prescription refills – Most non-controlled medications can be ordered by telehealth doctors. Temporary refills can be ordered when needed.
The Benefits of Telehealth
Telehealth has grown exponentially in Canada in recent years. Part of the reason for the growth of this type of healthcare delivery is because it is effective. Telehealth has knocked down barriers to care, such as a lack of transportation and provides patients with a more convenient option for care. Here are just a few of the benefits of telemedicine.
Decreased Wait Times To See A Doctor
Canadian’s report the longest wait times when it comes to seeing a doctor. In a recent study, one out of every five Canadians reported waiting longer than seven days to see a primary care physician. The wait time is even longer for a specialist. More than half of Canadians reported waiting more than one month to see a specialist. The problem is that Canadian doctors are already seeing patients at full capacity.5 After-hours appointments are often limited because expanding hours increases the costs to run clinics and practices.
Telehealth can help solve this problem because common minor issues can be treated with a visual examination via a video conferencing app or platform. Patients can see doctors right away without ever leaving their house. There is no need for patients to wait for days to get in for an appointment. With telecare, they can see healthcare professionals immediately and get treated sooner. This is beneficial for patients and also employers who offer telehealth services as it cuts down on missed work. The sooner employees get treated, the quicker they get back to work.
Telemedicine makes healthcare much more affordable and efficient for both doctors and patients. Telemedicine cuts healthcare costs by reducing unnecessary emergency room visits. It also helps reduce medication non-adherence that results from a lack of proper follow-up and care.
Telemedicine is as effective as a traditional in-person medical consultation for a variety of conditions. To learn more about telemedicine, contact us today.