A Publication of WTVP

Telemedicine has proven to be a cost-effective tool in efforts to improve patient care.

“Telemedicine” is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical healthcare at a distance. Currently, more than half of the hospitals in the United States utilize telemedicine—which was a $17.8 billion market in 2014 and is projected to grow at a rate of 18.4 percent annually through 2020, according to the Global Telemedicine Market Outlook 2020 report.

Why has telemedicine become such a huge factor in delivering healthcare? Patients and healthcare providers are choosing to utilize state-of-the-art technologies for various reasons: to enhance access for those who otherwise could not travel to see their doctor, as a more convenient way to communicate with their doctor from home, and as a means of communication from one provider to another for specialized opinions—all while saving time and money.

In our ongoing efforts to improve patient satisfaction and deliver quality healthcare, we are proud to assist in the development of a telemedicine option for our dermatology and cosmetic patients. Currently, we are using this portal to provide follow-up care to patients in the VIP cosmetic concierge program from the convenience of their own homes.

Types of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is typically delivered in one of the following ways: store and forward, remote monitoring, and real-time interactive video. “Store and forward” telemedicine is when a medical image is sent to an offsite specialist, who interprets the image. It is commonly used in specialty areas like dermatology, where patients may be located at a remote clinic or at home and can be seen by a specialist.

Remote monitoring can be used to send a patient’s “real-time” information—such as cardiac information, vital signs, blood sugar levels, and sleep and breathing patterns—from the medical provider to the specialist’s office or hospital. Real-time interactive video is utilized in areas such as mental health. Psychiatrists can counsel patients from hundreds of miles away and are able to see more patients due to the added convenience of later hours and even weekends.

Many states have laws that permit and encourage the provision of telemedicine services. As such, most insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, will reimburse some healthcare professionals for telemedicine services if the patient is located in a rural setting or cannot access the hospital or doctor. Not all types of medical care are reimbursed, but the list is growing as the popularity of telemedicine grows.

The Evolution of Healthcare
The strict privacy regulations of HIPAA apply to telemedicine the same as all other healthcare services. Sending private patient information over the Internet or wirelessly is a major concern which hospitals, physicians and software companies have continued to address and improve.

As information technology continues to evolve, the healthcare world is changing as well. Telemedicine has proven to be an extremely effective tool to improve patient care, save healthcare dollars and make staying healthy less of a burden.

Soderstrom Dermatology Center continues to evolve as well, and with the help of telemedicine, we will eventually be able to see patients throughout the country. We are honored to be a part of the future of medicine, while providing nothing but the best care to our patients. iBi