Telemedicine has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to modern technologies. VoIP, instant messaging, and social media applications have allowed faster communication between medical professionals and patients. But what is telemedicine, and what does it have to offer in the field of family medicine and paediatrics? Read that and a bit more in the article below.
What is telemedicine, and where did it come from?
Telemedicine itself was not a specifically invented system; instead, it was built off the back of the spread of telephone technology in the 1950s. Telemedicine in general was created as a way to share information between employees in hospitals and university medical centres. Today it makes use of modern technologies to allow doctors to communicate with their patients and vice-versa without having to meet in face-to-face consultations.
This basic idea opens up a lot of possibilities for doctor to doctor as well as doctor to patient interactions. For example, telemedicine can be used as an alternative to follow-up visits to the doctor, especially as it is common for patients to be unable or unwilling to return for these appointments. Telemedicine can be used to allow a doctor to share patient information to a specialist when a patient needs to be referred to one even if the doctors are hundreds of miles away from each other.
What are the benefits of telemedicine?
- Telemedicine is convenient. Hospitals are often located in the urban city centres, far from the homes set in large suburban sprawls. In these cases, telemedicine eliminates the need to have to go through traffic to get to the hospitals for regular appointments. This saves the families time and money that would have been spent going to the hospitals in person. At the same time, telemedicine allows doctors to save time and money as they will not need to take that many appointments in person.
- Telemedicine helps the parents attend to the child more closely. The immune systems of children are often much weaker than that of an adult’s. That is why they are much more vulnerable to contracting an additional disease when exposed to an environment with many of these diseases concentrated in smaller areas like hospitals and clinics. In other cases, the child’s disease can make him or her too weak to leave the house or at risk of spreading their disease outright.
With telemedicine, the parents can schedule appointments and meet with the doctor through video calls over the Internet without having to leave the home. This will allow the parents to still pay close attention to the child without putting the child at risk of coming into contact with other diseases that may worsen his current condition.
- Telemedicine helps doctors reach patients in remote areas. Rural and remote areas are often the most underserved while at the same time the most in need of medical professionals. For physicians who work in public or private hospitals, it will be very difficult for them to simply leave their offices and go out to these communities in person. This means that, typically, only specialised medical missions will have the time and resources to spend to make the difficult trip to reach these underserved areas. The advent of telemedicine, however, will allow physicians and specialists to bridge the gap with these difficult to reach patients, giving doctors the chance to give valuable medical advice to these patients from the relative comfort of their own offices.
What’s the catch?
Telemedicine, in the bigger picture, does seem like the future of medicine as we know it. However, nothing is ever that easy nowadays, and there are indeed a couple of limitations to telemedicine that we will outline below.
First of all, it should never be considered as an outright replacement to a face to face doctor’s appointment, although it is definitely an alternative to one; doctors will be able to better tend to your needs if they are able to observe you physically with their own eyes and not just your face and upper body through a screen. Second, the general system of telemedicine does not really have a solid regulatory foundation. This means that the quality of care received through telemedicine can vary considerably from hospital to hospital. It is always advisable getting in touch with your local paediatric surgeon in Perth for additional information.
Despite that, telemedicine is constantly improving over time and, given its benefits, should definitely not be ignored as a viable option.