Telemedicine is about using tele-communication and electronic tools to provide healthcare virtually, at a distance. The notion of telemedicine has been around for a long time now, but it is in the recent years that it has evolved to a variety of different forms and today is an answer to solving a lot of healthcare’s problems.
Hospital IT and telemedicine tools when used together are very complementary and synergistic. Hospitals can leverage it as a tool to a) deliver medical care b) achieve innovation and execution strategy.
In the case of medical care delivery, telemedicine applications can be categorized as follows:
In this case, the patient describes symptoms to the doctor/ nurse over an online video meeting followed by diagnosis.
In this case, the physician might take a photograph of a skin lesion and send it to a dermatologist, who then reviews the photograph and provides his assessment either immediately, in a few hours, or the next day.
3. Remote patient monitoring:
In this case, digital technologies are used to collect routine tests data in one location and electronically transmit the information to healthcare providers in a different location, for evaluation and recommendation.
Examples of RPM could be Patient condition monitoring, Catastrophic care delivery by the first responder in absence of specialized care personnel, keeping an eye on critically ill patients in the ICU without being physically present etc.
In the case of innovation and execution strategy, here are few of many applications:
Cost saving through innovation
Emergency departments use tele-medicine as the first point of consultation depending on which the patient is transferred to the ED.
Example: In a hospital in Houston, patients were remotely consulted by an Emergency physician, who determined whether the patient needed to be transported to the ED. Non- urgent cases were identified and diverted to a primary care clinic, avoiding unnecessary ED visits. Through this intervention the hospital saved $2,468 per averted ED visit
Increase market share
Hospitals can provide services to new patient populations and geographic areas. With telemedicine, hospitals can advance into underdeveloped markets without bearing the burden of building or leasing facilities. Hospitals can also contract with other health systems like assisted living facilities and reach out to those patients.
Hospitals need to look at telemedicine as a standard of care and as a means for driving strategy and transformation. Telemedicine is being proven and adopted as a solution to deliver medical care and achieve innovation in developed markets. However, it is also important to use it to revolutionize healthcare in the developing markets, where access to health is limited because of geographical constraints and skewed distribution of health workforce in urban and rural areas. Telemedicine can be a gamechanger if adopted by hospitals in a country like India, where 80% of the doctors are living in urban areas and in a country like Philippines, where the population is spread across 7000 islands.
Virtualization and technology have been transforming other industries and healthcare is on the horizon. I would like to conclude by saying just as Uber has no vehicles, Alibaba has no inventory, Airbnb has no real estate; it is possible to envision a future where the best hospitals would have no infrastructure of their own and be completely virtual.
Sr. Business Analyst