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The
involvement of telecommunications technology for improvement in patient care
may basically include sending medical images to a specialist for interpretation,
a live two-way video consultation between a patient & a provider, capturing
and sending data or information from vital sign monitoring devices and
incorporating all of these matters into electronic medical records. The
telemedicine use has become an integrated part of ongoing operations of
emergency rooms, ambulatory care facilities, radiology departments, home health
agencies and private physician offices. Moreover, the federally funded demonstrations
to hospitals have extended their help to patients located in the remote areas.

Owing
to innovative & newer developments in telecommunications field, establishment
of internet and lowered technology costs, the telemedicine growth over the next
eight years is anticipated to have a profound and revolutionary effect on the
delivery of medical care throughout the world. Telemedicine mainly refers to
the usage of medical or health information exchanged from one site to another via
electronic communications to improve the patients’ health status. On the other
hand, although telehealth is closely associated with telemedicine, the meaning
for the same encompass a broader definition of remote healthcare that
necessarily does not always involve clinical services.

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Basics
such as videoconferencing, still image transmission, e-health including patient
portals, continuing medical education, monitoring of vital signs and nursing
call centers are all considered under telemedicine and telehealth. Telemedicine
mainly incorporates the different types of products and services provided for
the patient. We shall list some points below that would stress on the usage why
telemedicine is used by patients and doctors.

Improved
Access: Since many years, telemedicine has been continuously used to bring
healthcare services to patients in distant locations. Not only telemedicine improve
the access to patients but also allows the physicians and health facilities to
expand their reach, beyond their own offices.

Cost
Efficiencies: Reduction of healthcare cost is one of the major goals and
reasons for adoption of telehealth technologies. It has been reported earlier
that telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase
efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional
staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.

Patient
Demand: Increasing consumer interest for telemedicine and telehealth is
expected to assist the overall market growth over the forecast period. The
greatest impact of the former is on patient, their family and their community. The
use of telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses to
the patient.

There
has been exceptional support for telemedical services by patients over the last
fifteen years. Based on studies conducted by several agencies within the
federal government and other assessments by commercial vendors and ATA (American
Telemedicine Association), it is estimated that there are about 200
telemedicine networks in the United States involving close to 3,500 medical and
healthcare institutions throughout the country. Some are more active than
others and many combine clinical services with continuing education programs as
well. Point-to-point connections using private networks are used by hospitals
and clinics that deliver services directly or outsource specialty services to
independent medical service providers at ambulatory care sites.

Radiology,
mental health and even intensive care services are being provided under
contract using telemedicine to deliver the services. Primary
or specialty care to the home connections involves connecting primary care
providers, specialists and home health nurses with patients over single line
phone-video systems for interactive clinical consultations. Such factors are
expected to positively impact the overall market growth over the forecast
period.

Home
to monitoring center links are used for pacemaker, cardiac, pulmonary or fetal
monitoring, home care and related services that provide care to patients in the
home only. Usually normal phone lines are used to communicate directly between
the patient and the center but some systems use the internet. It is estimated
that over 200,000 patients use such services in the United States alone.
Web-based
e-health patient service sites provide direct consumer outreach and services
over the internet. Under telemedicine, these include those sites that provide
direct patient care.

Telehealth
is the usage of digital technologies to deliver medical care, health education
and public health services by connecting multiple users in separate or
different locations. Telehealth encompasses a broad definition of
technology-enabled health care services. Telehealth includes telemedicine and
services such as assessment, monitoring, communications, prevention and
education. The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers finalized a
Telehealth Definition Framework to help policy makers, practitioners, payers,
and the public understand how to accurately discuss “telehealth” and its key
components. The consortium consists of the twelve federally designated regional
centers and two national telehealth resource centers (TRCs). Telehealth is a
collection of means or methods for enhancing healthcare, public health, and
health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies. The
three ways in which telehealth clinical services (or telemedicine) are currently
delivered are:

·        
Video Conferencing: This is used for
real-time patient-provider consultations, provider-to-provider discussions and
language translation services.

·        
Remote patient monitoring: This is process
where the patients’ health information is delivered to healthcare providers.

·        
Store & forward technologies: This is the
way is which where the information is electronically transmitted through pre-recorded
videos & digital images such as X-rays, video clips and photos, between
primary care providers and medical specialists. 

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