In today’s information society, anyone can track their personal health information through technology devices. The trend is catching on in health care with the rise of telemedicine. Many health care practitioners have the ability to conduct consultations with their patients in the virtual world through video, text or e-mail.
“Telehealth is catching on quickly and it is expected to grow 18.4% by 2020, according to a recent report by health care consultancy RONCOS (Louis, 2015, para 2). Venture funding in the U.S. for telehealth grew 315% just last year, making it the fastest-growing sector in digital health, according to the report” (Luis, July, 2015, para 2). Several trends and cultural changes have contributed to this widespread growth:
Lifestyle change: Today, patients have adapted to using smartphones and tablets to access their information and they are familiar seeking out communication via a smart phone.
Affordable Care Act: Because there is more people who have insurance than in the past, it is important patients are pro-active and have fast, easy access to address their health issues and concerns.
Growth of the senior demographic: As the baby boomer generation ages, there is a need to address health issues early on to prevent health problems from progressing. By treating health issues in the initial stages, cost are lowered and alleviates an overload on physician’s offices and hospitals by excluding the demand for in-patient office visits.
In store-and-forward telehealth services use digital images, video, audio, observation of daily living (ODLs), and clinical data that are captured and stored on the client computer or mobile device; then at a convenient time they are transmitted securely to a clinic at another location where they are studied by the physicians (Louis, 2015). The physician’s diagnosis is then transmitted back and based on the requirements of the healthcare entities involved, and turnaround time takes between 1 minute to 48 hours. In the simplest form of telehealth service, basic vital signs like blood pressure, weight, pulse, and blood sugar values are monitored and watched for long term chronic care (Louis, 2015). Videoconferencing is one of the most common forms of real-time telemedicine. Peripheral devices can also be attached to computers or the video-conferencing equipment, which can aid in an interactive examination Louis, 2015). With the availability of better and cheaper communication channels, direct two-way audio and video streaming between centers through computers is leading to lower costs.
Telehealth services offers extraordinary benefits to consumers, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, but strategic communication is essential for encouraging the use of this time-saving and cost-saving technology.
Louis, K. (2015, July) Tackling Telehealth Communication Challenges. Marketing Health Services e-newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.ama.org/publications/enewsletter/mhsnewsletter/pages/default.aspx.