The use of Telemedicine has grown consistently over the past decade and peaked during the COVD-19 pandemic. To avoid exposure and risk of infecting others, patients have utilised telemedicine and telehealth platforms to “visit” healthcare professionals. According to the Financial Express, the number of teleconsultations at Apollo Telehealth increased 19 fold in 2020. Through Telemedicine, hospital resources have been used more efficiently and patient outcomes have improved. Telemedicine has a lot of advantages for both those patients who are in the hospital and those who aren’t.
Specialists can instruct on-site physicians thus avoiding moving the patients from one provider to another. Telemedicine has also made healthcare and specialised medicine available to rural areas, reducing travel time and cost. Post-surgery follow-ups via remote patient monitoring have significantly reduced readmissions. Through telemedicine, mental health facilities that are not available at certain hospitals can be made available.
Telemedicine has thrived the most with outpatient facilities. Through video conferencing, follow-ups and consultations reducing travel time. Doctors can help interpret reports and scans on video visits with their patients. Patients suffering from chronic pain require frequent visits which are made easy by teleconsultations. Telemedicine also provides urgent care to patients who don’t need emergency room consultations, thus avoiding overcrowding and shortage of beds.
Technologies involved in telemedicine
- Artificial Intelligence: AI in telemedicine has helped doctors with suggesting appropriate diagnosis and treatments for patients. Many telemedicine platforms use AI chatbots to address the patient’s queries. Gyant is one such AI-based telemedicine platform that helps to collect and analyse a patient’s medical history.
- Internet of Things: Telemedicine has significantly progressed since the advent of the internet. Data from digital stethoscopes and pulse oximeters can be sent to the doctors in real-time helping them to track their patients’ progress. Pillsy is a smart medication bottle that reminds patients to take their medication on time, through an app. Via teleconsultation services, doctors can even guide the patients on how to use said devices.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Collecting information of a patient from one location and sending it to medical personnel at a different location constitutes Remote Patient Monitoring. RPM aids with access to healthcare in rural areas and can avoid the shortage of hospital resources as patients are treated while being at home. Babyscripts is one such remote patient monitoring platform that provides prenatal and postpartum care virtually.
- Cloud Storage: In telemedicine, data from patients such as their medical history, prescriptions, lab results, and scans are reserved in the cloud storage. Medical professionals can easily access these files from any device. Cloud Storage has also made telemonitoring and processing easy to perform.
- Blockchain: Many experts voiced their concerns over the privacy and security of cloud storage. Blockchain categorises the information into blocks that cannot be easily accessed by unauthorised individuals. Blockchain allows medical and personal information to be well protected and also assists with efficient data transfer.
- Big Data Analytics: Data analytics helps in health informatics, gathers genetics and -omics based information and enables further research. Data Analytics also helps to predict future ailments by analysing patient history. Data Analytics enables doctors to accurately diagnose a patient’s illness, a task that was previously conducted by patients listing out their symptoms and doctors making a calculated guess.
- Augmented and Virtual Reality: Mixed Reality platforms can help technicians get real-time information about the patients and can improve remote diagnosis. Iflexion, an AR company, develops apps that aid clinicians to diagnose virtually. Telemedicine companies like Zipnosis and SnapMD have multimodal virtual care platforms.
- Robotics: Robotics is the first advent of technology into healthcare. Monitoring and caring for the patients is made easy thanks to telerobots. Robots can help assist the surgeons and help set up virtual visits with doctors. These robots are built with sensors that can recognise the changes in a patient’s moods and behaviours and gauge their recovery process. In some cases, an experienced surgeon at a remote location can teleoperate through a robot.
Bengaluru-based MedPiper Technologies, Inc connects doctors by providing them with a network to participate in forums and discussion topics. MedPiper’s automating tools are easy to use and are necessary for the healthcare industry by eliminating the waste of man-hours. This platform also enables continuous learning by connecting doctors to courses of their choice. MScribe is the e-prescription tool provided by MedPiper that optimises prescribing medications.
Through technology, telemedicine has grown by leaps and bounds. Telemedicine has reduced the strain on healthcare, especially during the pandemic by offering teleconsultation services and e-pharmacy options. It has improved both patient care as well as efficient usage of hospital services. Telemedicine has become a radical way of approaching healthcare and many lives can be saved in conditions as drastic as the pandemic.