Research Paper On TelemedicineBringing Medicine Closer to Patients
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Telemedicine: Bringing Medicine Closer to Patients
It is safe to assume that life is now easier with the invention of technology, especially the availability of the internet. Most businesses and activities can now be done in the internet for those on the go and would need some time to bond with friends or settle important paperwork. Nowadays, only a few people do not have access to the internet and stick to the traditional method in doing transactions. For medicine, it has slowly adopted technology and the internet to give quality service to patients. Normally, patients would have to pay hundreds of dollars because of hospital bills and additional fees, making patients stay out from hospitals if they can. However, with the introduction of the internet, medical experts have devised methods to enable patients to receive quality medical care while in their own homes. This breakthrough is known today as Telemedicine. Although many find it awkward to use computers to speak with their doctors, telemedicine has enabled patients to save a lot of money and be monitored regularly by their doctors no matter where they are in the globe. It has also allowed medical practitioners to learn, update, and follow the current trends in medicine despite their locations.
The term “telemedicine” was incepted in 1970, meaning healing from a distance. This directly emphasizes the use of ICT to improve health in various parts by giving open access to healthcare. The definition of telemedicine has varied since the time of its inception and improvement. Normally, it is considered as online health-care as computers are used to access several medical services like consultation, appointment scheduling, and medical application. However, experts would agree that telemedicine is a medical service that enables people to access medical services through the use of the internet, at the same time, enables practitioners to exchange medical files and data easily. Telemedicine is not a new medicine despite its nature as an alternative medium for patients to access their doctors or medical providers. Instead, it should be referred to as a medical service that caters to general to specific medical procedure. Telemedicine is separated in various levels, depending on the application. Level 1 constitutes general procedures such as transferring medical data through the use of emails. Level 4 covers research for technologies that can be used to give medical aid. These levels can vary depending on the country’s medical concentration and technological specialty .
The history of telemedicine can be traced through the 19th century as some doctors would use telephones to transmit electrocardiograph data. The 1960s became the start of telemedicine as it was improved to accommodate commercial equipment in conducting health care. Some of the notable example from the 1960s is the use of television to conduct consultations between psychiatric specialists to general practitioners; and the use of the recorded or live video streaming to remote areas such as local medical centres. Recently, telemedicine has enabled many developments in adding ICTs to health care. Developed countries and remote areas in industrialized nations have been one of the major considerations in the inception of telemedicine and its various applications. With the digitalization of communication and the price drop in using ICTs, telemedicine has enabled healthcare providers and experts to implement efficient ways to provide care. Advancements for ICT have been improved by the introduction of the internet, enabling telemedicine to cover and utilize Web-based applications and multimedia in applying telemedicine.
Telemedicine can be applied in two types depending on the information shared and the interaction between healthcare providers or healthcare providers to their patients. The first type is the asynchronous or store-and-forward type which enables telemedicine to share recorded date between individuals in different times. This is normally seen in e-mail transcriptions sent to an expert, who would reply at a later time regarding the diagnosis for the transcription provided. On the other hand, the synchronous or real-time type enables telemedicine to present information through health professionals and experts through the use of videoconference or three-way teleconferencing. Either telemedicine application can utilize various media to transmit information. They can use text, video, sound, or photos in sharing information through the internet or other mobile methods. Telemedicine services are also not limited in general consultation and discussion as telemedicine also enables teledermatology, telepathology, and teleradiology to be done in a remote setting. These services not only utilize the internet, but it also uses mobile medical devices for remote operations.
Most of the services of telemedicine is focused on diagnosis and management. Developed countries often utilize these services and provide them to their citizens regularly as part of their health policies. Medical practitioners and providers in these developed countries also utilizes mobile monitoring devices for heath rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels for patients who have chronic diseases that need to be monitored regularly. Today, telemedicine is utilized by home care facilities and providers in these regions, enabling patients to rest in their homes and be treated far away from the hospitals. For developing countries and areas with limited access to hospitals and health care institutions, telemedicine enables local health care providers to link their patients to specialists to diagnose their patients properly. However, it is still being discussed today as to how to overcome the barriers that prevent remote communities to utilize telemedicine efficiently without too many fees and costs.
There are many benefits of telemedicine which is currently proven by the various medical organizations and practitioners around the globe. The first benefit is the availability of healthcare and medical services anywhere in the globe. Experts and practitioners can exchange opinions and diagnosis in both real and pre-recorded time. Patients can also be monitored regularly by experts through the use of the internet and monitoring devices even if they are not in the hospitals. Telemedicine also enables medical practitioners to become up-to-date with the recent developments and strategies in medicine and health care practice. It also reduces the cost of general services such as documentation, updating, and information sharing between hospitals and private corporations who need medical data pertaining to patients or diseases. Telemedicine also bridges the gap between healthcare providers and people who cannot access medical services such as the elderly and those from far-flung areas and impoverished regions through the use of internet and mobile equipment. Telemedicine also enables medical practitioners to access information, which is normally not available locally, such as journal articles, studies and even case studies. Information sharing is also a benefit from telemedicine as communication between medical practitioners to various individuals can be shared immediately and accurately. This benefit also adds the reduction of double examinations in chances that the information is found with lapses. Finally, telemedicine provides cost reduction and resource management as funds are allotted immediately to each sector of healthcare .
Despite these benefits, there are also limitations seen in telemedicine that raises concern in many sectors, especially in the developing regions. It is a common occurrence that technology is quite expensive for purchase for commercial use, which is why some concerns regarding telemedicine cost are put into question. There is also a question on the cost of retraining medical practitioners to use telemedicine-related items and funding these machines. There is also a problem in terms of the limitations on how telemedicine can be used in terms of the information it can transmit. Medical files and diagnosis are argued by many experts that must be maintained confidential and must not be used to blackmail or legal purposes. Some are concerned as to the people that can access these files and edit them for illegal purposes and activity. Some studies have also pointed that telemedicine may induce a rift between the patient and the medical practitioner since patients may feel that telemedicine is unable to determine the cause of their illness and provide assurance of their treatment. There is also the concern that some patients may not be able to express what they feel or what they need to their doctors while in front of the computer .
For developing countries, the issue on the perceived cost of telemedicine has been the major concern which is why several organizations such as the World Health Organization are finding it hard to apply this breakthrough in these areas. There is also a question on the capacity of telemedicine to become successful in these developing countries as there are still barriers that prevent telemedicine to be applied in local health systems. There are also accounts that show that not all health care providers and patients in these developing countries that are not open in applying modern techniques, favouring the use of traditional and indigenous methods due to the history behind its effectiveness. There are also others who cannot afford the training costs to become literate in ICT, which would be detrimental if telemedicine is applied in the area. Language and culture difference are also seen as a major barrier for application of telemedicine in these developing countries. Most developing countries also have citizens that are strictly conservative, which is why they have ethical concerns over the application of technology in medicine. Some patients also feel that telemedicine would degrade a person’s dignity as telemedicine would show those who are illiterate and those from families who are not well-off in life.
Legal considerations and technological capacity are also considered as obstacles for applying telemedicine in developing countries. For legal considerations, most of these countries does not have a legal framework in enabling medical practitioners to practice their profession in different regions with different jurisdictions. This is true in regions which have different governments in their provinces. There are also problems in policies that enable patients to be protected in terms of their privacy and data confidentiality. Several of these developing countries also have problems in policies that would properly screen medical practitioners and health care providers. Guidelines are also barriers for telemedicine in developing countries to maintain legislation and regulation. In terms of technological challenges, most of the technology used for telemedicine uses complex processes, and it would be hard to train specialists to run troubleshooting should these systems malfunction or fail upon use. Since telemedicine solely relies on these technologies and systems to provide health care to patients, it may cause cases of increased mortality or morbidity .
Although there are still lapses and limitations to the current form of telemedicine, it is without a doubt that telemedicine would open up opportunities for health-care. It may also provide a solution to the worldwide problem over the limitations of healthcare in far-flung areas, especially for those who cannot afford important medical services. Practitioners will also be up-to-date with new techniques to enable medicines and procedures to work accurately for patients. It is important to keep in mind that technology is not always used for leisure, or for a few, for illegal activity. For medicine, technology enables practitioners and experts to make medical procedures and services affordable and flexible for any patients. If the limitations are met, it is possible that telemedicine would enable people to maintain their health with less the cost, but with higher efficiency.
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