In the light of recent reforms of health care aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of health care services, the application of patient care information technology, or e-medicine, can be seen as a viable solution to overcoming current health care issues.
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E-medicine is defined as the integration of various types of information technology into healthcare delivery. The types of information technology include the Internet, mobile communication networks, personal computers and mobile devices. One of the components of e-medicine is telehealth, which is the focus of this paper. The researcher provides the rationale for choosing this topic, informed by literature review. The concept of telehealth is described along with its benefits and potential obstacles to the implementation of telehealth.
The topic chosen for the purposes of this paper comes from Grand Ferowich’s article Cigna expands telehealth offerings, adds behavioral health video consults from FierceHealthcare website. In the article, the author writes about an insurance company Cigna which expanded its medical services coverage to include telehealth services. The reporter claims that telehealth has great cost-saving potential and can reduce medical expenses by $453 per consultation (Ferowich, 2016, para. 5). Nonetheless, the author notes that current regulatory policies have hindered the wider implementation of telehealth.
Telehealth as the topic of this paper was chosen because telehealth has direct implications for the future of healthcare. It is a well-known fact that in the last few decades, healthcare expenditures have been on the rise, while the accessibility and quality of care remained low. In the recent years, several major laws affecting the practice of public health were enacted, aimed to minimize health disparities by lowering costs and improving the accessibility of health care. As such, current trends in healthcare include minimizing healthcare expenditures while also decreasing health discrepancies and improving patient outcomes. With the development of telecommunications technology and wide availability of the Internet, telehealth presents a viable solution to the problems of rising healthcare expenditures and the accessibility challenge. Telehealth can be used to improve many aspects of health care delivery, from diagnostics and treatment to education.
Telehealth is the area of e-medicine which can be defined as the delivery of medical services over distance by means of telecommunications technology (Weinstein et. al., 2014, p. 183). Telehealth incorporates various forms of innovative healthcare delivery, including telemedicine, or the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients, and a variety of connected services, such as telepharmacy, telenursing and telerehabilitation (Weinstein et. al., 2014, p. 183; Hailey, Roine, Ohinmaa, & Dennett, 2011, p. 281). Telehealth is made possible by the advances in the telecommunications technology, mainly the rapid expansion of the Internet and mobile networks.
With the healthcare costs on the rise, it is important to consider telehealth as a tool to reduce unnecessary hospital visits. Due to the improvements in telecommunications technology, medical services can be provided in a more convenient and cost-effective way (Zaidan & Zaidan, 2011, p. 1). Telehealth can be used to provide diagnosis and treatment of some minor health conditions without the need of the patient to visit the hospital. In addition, telehealth can be used to provide medical care after discharge. All of these uses reduce the number of hospital visits without compromising the quality of care. As such, telehealth can be an effective cost-control solution.
In addition, telehealth improves the accessibility of care, since medical care can be accessed from any place with the internet connection. With telehealth, patients do not need to go to a hospital for a consultation, and they can be easily assisted remotely. Digital patient records and radiological images can easily be accessed anywhere through the Internet. A variety of services, including nursing and pharmaceutical services, can be provisioned remotely, making it easier to access health care.
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Telehealth does have downsides. As a relatively new technology, awareness is an issue, since many healthcare consumers do not know about the possibilities telehealth presents or lack any knowledge of its existence. In addition, the regulatory environment is still in the development stage and limits the application of telemedicine.
While traditional medical care is expensive, cost-containment strategies should account for the need to improve the quality of care while minimizing expenditures. Such goal can only be achieved if the latest technology is used to provide non-essential medical services remotely. The infrastructure for this purpose already exists – many hospitals use digital medical records, and internet penetration rates have constantly been on the rise. It is important to leverage the existing infrastructure to deliver cost-efficient medical care and improve accessibility.
Informatics Skills and Knowledge Self-reflection
Information technology changed many aspects of the society, including healthcare. The knowledge of the capabilities of current technology and its application in clinical settings is vital to today’s medical personnel. The researcher’s knowledge of current patient care information technology was of great assistance when writing this paper.
Such technology as digital medical records has obvious advantages: it reduces administrative costs, it establishes information flow between various practitioners, and it makes it easier to access patient health data from anywhere. Such technology, as computerized prescription order systems, can be used to reduce the number of medical errors in a hospital setting.
E-medicine is a broad field, and it is not only limited to digital medical records or computerized prescription order systems. In order to be proficient in patient care information technology, it is necessary to have a broader understanding of the way technology can change healthcare. The availability of the Internet and the widespread adoption of smartphones allowed greater levels of mobility and productivity. The same technology can be leveraged to overcome current healthcare challenges, such as high costs of medical care.
In today’s complex healthcare settings, more people recognize the role of information technology in achieving healthcare goals. Information technology in healthcare settings brings many advantages for both the patients and medical personnel. In the future, the introduction of latest innovative technology in the field of health care will allow health professionals reduce the discrepancies which currently exist by improving the accessibility of health care.
In addition to such technology, as digital medical records and computerized order prescription systems, telehealth presents a solution to the challenge of ever-increasing healthcare expenditures with no compromise to the quality of care. In addition, telehealth can be used to improve the accessibility of care by providing medical care to patients in remote locations.
As with any innovative technology, it will take time and effort to overcome current obstacles, such as the lack of awareness and underdeveloped regulatory policies. However, the opportunities presented by telehealth outweigh the challenges. In the future, it is important to consider the wider implementation of telehealth in the medical practice.
Ferowich, G. (2016). Cigna expands telehealth offerings, adds behavioral health video consults. Web.
Hailey, D., Roine, R., Ohinmaa, A., & Dennett, L. (2011). Evidence of Benefit from Telerehabilitation in Routine Care: a Systematic Review. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 17(6), 281-287. Web.
Weinstein, R., Lopez, A, Joseph, B., Erps, K., Holcomb, M., Barker, G., & Krupinski, E. (2014). Telemedicine, Telehealth, and Mobile Health Applications That Work: Opportunities and Barriers. The American Journal of Medicine, 127, 183-187.
Zaidan, B., & Zaidan, A. (2011). Impact of Data Privacy and Confidentiality on Developing Telemedicine Applications: A Review Participates Opinion and Expert Concerns. International Journal of Pharmacology, 7(1), 1-6. Web.