Telemedicine Isn’t Just for Robots

When we first hear about telemedicine, many of us imagine surgeons operating on patients remotely with sophisticated robots. This can seem very far removed from everyday medical needs and capabilities, and make telemedicine something that all but the largest hospitals ignore.

Telemedicine encompasses much more than just telesurgery, however; it also includes mundane tasks such as checking in on elderly patients at home and enabling faster, less onerous followup appointments after a patient has seen a doctor in person.

If you are a doctor or healthcare administrator, you may want to give telemedicine a second look. There is a range of uses for telemedicine, and almost every health practitioner can use it for improved efficiency and cost savings. While robotic surgery doesn’t come cheap, less dramatic telemedicine scenarios such as remote patient monitoring is affordable even for small clinics through our cloud-based telemedicine technology platform.

How You Can Use Telemedicine

Here are five specialties that can benefit from telemedicine.

Surgery

Surgeons who don’t remotely perform surgery can still benefit from telemedicine. That’s because telemedicine can also be used for cost-effective pre- and post-op care, not only for surgery itself.

For pre-op, surgical staff can use telemedicine for preparing the patient prior to surgery. As every doctor knows, patients can misinterpret or forget important instructions such as stopping certain medications prior to surgery. By using telemedicine for remote check-in, however, surgical staff can better communicate surgical needs and reduce patient no-shows.

With post-op patients, telemedicine also can be used both for clinical and educational needs. Medical staff can use high-definition real time communications to check a patient’s drains and bandages visually to confirm proper healing. Healthcare providers also can remotely offer follow-up visits, and continuous connections can ensure that patients are following up on post-op care.

Cardiology

Cardiology departments deal with a wide range of tests and procedures every day, from stress tests to stent placements. While telemedicine isn’t appropriate for all cardiology needs, it can serve as a useful adjunct for compliance, early monitoring and prevention.

In-home monitoring devices for blood pressure enable cardiologists to closely follow chronic conditions such as heart disease and capture this data for clinical review. This can be combined with remote followup appointments to address blood pressure issues for faster changes in care or additional patient instructions.

For patients with co-morbidities, cardiology departments also can use telemedicine for collaborative monitoring of glucose levels and medication dosages in diabetes or other illnesses. Telemedicine can empower patients for better self-care, and also prevent avoidable hospitalizations through closer collaboration and monitoring.

Gastroenterology

For gastroenterologists, colonoscopies are common procedures. Not so for patients who are undergoing them, however; for many, a colonoscopy is the first major medical procedure they have undergone. So there’s room for plenty of anxiety.

With telemedicine, gastroenterologists can quickly and efficiently meet with patients beforehand to ease anxiety and instruct the patient on the right amount of GoLYTELY that should be consumed.

Meeting with patients prior to their colonoscopy not only helps them come fully prepared and with less anxiety, it also builds loyalty that keeps patients from going elsewhere for future medical needs. A doctor who helps a patient with the emotional side and not just the physical side of illness has a much better chance of keeping a patient for life.

Telemedicine also can be used for patient follow-up, education and disease management tools such as lifestyle guidance for illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Psychiatry

Psychiatrists often find that telemedicine is better than in-person care since there is added efficiency and little is lost through remote consultations.

Patients who can talk with a psychiatrist from home are much less likely to skip appointments, especially with mental health issues such as depression; making the appointment is much easier if they just have to connect with a psychiatrist through their phone.

Remote sessions also are more relaxing and enjoyable both for the psychiatrist and the patient because the sessions can take place in a comfortable environment instead of an office or institutional setting. In many cases, this increases sharing and put patients at ease. It also enables psychiatrists to schedule appointments more flexibly to meet patient needs, and psychiatrists can start in the office and then see a few clients in the evening as makes sense without requiring a home office.

Telemedicine also helps with sharing information with collaborative care teams. Psychiatrists can consult with patients or clinicians regardless of geographic location, making it possible for increased caseloads without increasing the workload significantly. When mental health consultation is needed, clinicians can easily connect with psychiatrists via videoconference for quick questions or collaboration.

Geriatrics

There’s tremendous scope for geriatric care through telemedicine use. When mobility becomes an issue, telemedicine can greatly reduce the barrier to seeing medical personnel. Patients both can be monitored better and meet with doctors more easily.

Through telemedicine, geriatric departments can far more easily identify at-risk patients following discharge, and deliver timely intervention to avoid readmission.

Nursing homes can also partner with healthcare providers for patient monitoring of residents at a fraction of the cost it typically would require, enabling additional monitoring. Electronic health records can be combined with telemedicine to create clear communication among hospitals, senior care facilities, referring physicians, and patient families.

These are just a few medical specialties that can benefit from telemedicine. Almost every medical specialty can benefit from remote healthcare in some way, even if it isn’t as sexy as robotic surgery. And through Agora.io’s real-time communications infrastructure, healthcare providers can offer these telemedicine options easily, without technology maintenance costs, and for as little as $399 for every 100,000 minutes of telemedicine video with patients.