Is Telemedicine the Future of Healthcare?

Telehealth services care

Have you heard of telemedicine? It is the practice of using telecommunications, such as video conferencing, to deliver a physician’s care or medical information to a patient. The advantages of telemedicine range from the ease of receiving care at home, to lower costs for healthcare companies. The concern some people have about this newer practice is if it uses HIPAA compliant software. To comply with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act that was passed in 1996, the software used for telemedicine must ensure that a patient’s medical information is protected and secure from unauthorized viewers.

One poll found that 67% of physicians and other healthcare professionals currently use, or plan to use, telemedicine to supplement their practice. Telemedicine video conferencing is perhaps the most popular form, as it allows the healthcare professional to have a remote yet meaningful face-to-face conversation with the patient. In another study of kept appointments over an 18 month period by psychiatry patients, it was discovered that tele psychiatry appointments were kept five percent more than the non-telepsychiatry appointments.

One reason for this may be the ease of getting to the appointment in the first place. In some areas of the country, it can be difficult to get the proper care in a local health facility; the patient may have quite a drive to make if their illness requires something other than a general practitioner. When the appointment is in your own home, any excuses for not showing up dwindle considerably.

It has been found that in the chronically ill population, 30 to 35% are likely to have a diagnosable mental illness. One of the benefits of telehealth is that instead of the patient meeting the doctor or healthcare professional in an unfamiliar and sterile environment, it is instead on the patient’s terms. For those who live in a rural area, this is incredibly convenient. Convenience must not come at the price of compromised privacy however; the healthcare professional needs HIPAA compliant software.

HIPAA compliant software is not to be confused with Health Information Technology, or HIT. HIT keeps digital track of a patient’s medical records for easy transferability to different hospitals and providers. HIPAA compliant software ensures that no unauthorized personnel has access to those patient records.

The telemedicine platform of remote care carries the concern that is more difficult to ensure a patient’s information is protected outside of the doctor’s office. The possibility of someone listening in on one side of the video conference, or hacking into the records. The slightly informal tone of video conferencing must not compromise the seriousness of the actually purpose, meaning, providing healthcare. There is also the concern of practicing medicine across state lines. States have different requirements and licenses for their healthcare professionals, which must be taken into account when video conferencing.

The benefits of telemedicine are just being realized. As the industry grows, so do opportunities to bring quality healthcare to a wider audience.

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