Telemedicine had an unprecedented year in 2017 and is currently taking the country (and world) by storm. This surge in interest in the new health care trend has been unprecedented in recent times, and this looks set to continue into 2018 and beyond. Despite the current ascent of telemedicine, it is not in fact a new idea; telemedicine has been around for decades. But when it was first introduced, it was only applied in relation to telephone-aided health care, and was seen as an outlier practice, set up to help those people who had trouble getting to a doctor avail of the health care they required.
The lay of the land is quite different sixty-odd years later. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and the prevalence of digital technology everywhere we turn, telemedicine has been able to be incorporated in to the medicinal arena in ways that its inventors couldn’t conceive of, and is now becoming a major initiative in the ever-changing field of health care. Commodities like Netflix and WhatsApp have gotten us used to having things on demand – an instantaneous delivery of the things we want to engage with. Telemedicine operates no differently, and can, in one sense, be thought of as “medicine on demand.”
This is of course not the only application of telemedicine, but it fits right in with the way the world operates in 2018, and constitutes a large part of why telemedicine is becoming so popular with patients (or potential patients). It gives people access to the health care they require when and where they need it; it also gives doctors more time in the day to attend to more patients, and recommend specialists from anywhere in the country, not just one that happens to be nearby their patient.
Going to a doctor’s office is hassle (and a little intimidating) for most people, but for some people, it’s downright impossible. The primary aim of telemedicine when it was established in the 1950s is still as applicable as ever today, despite the technological advancements. Patients who need to see a doctor but live in remote areas or are physically incapacitated can avail of health care via their smartphones or tablets, without needing to leave their house. They can also be referred to specialists for their specific condition and confer with these specialists without needing to leave their house. Instead of a telephone call, the patients can actually consult with their doctor to “face-to-face” via Skype or FaceTime, leading to better communication between doctor and patient, diagnosis, and treatment.
But telemedicine is not just about doctors and specialists having consultations with incapacitated patients; it is also a new channel for people to be prescribed and avail of medicine, without having to go and physically obtain a prescription. Take the new wave of medical marijuana legalization laws currently sweeping the U.S. MMJ is now legal in 29 states and counting in various forms, and patients can apply for their medicine over the internet, by seeking a certified medical marijuana identification card from reputed sites like MMJ Recs. By providing an online source for increasingly common medicine like medical marijuana, telemedicine is helping to take the heat of the health care system, allowing doctors to see more of the patients they need to consult in person.
Doctors are also better able to monitor their patients through telemedicine and allow patients to better monitor themselves. It is common practice for doctors to want to keep an eye on heart activity in older patients, yet they could previously only do this sporadically, when the patient came to see them. Through telemedicine, patients are able to send their doctor through any relevant information, or even upload data to the cloud in real time, allowing their medical team to get a broad perspective on their condition, and see if there’s immediate need for further action. Essentially, across many different conditions, the transfer of information is much quicker when it comes to telemedicine, which can only be a good thing when it comes to treating patients.
Ultimately, the practice of telemedicine is slowly revolutionizing the face of health care, and as it becomes more widespread and prevalent, it will surely be the go-to method of consulting your doctor for myriad reasons. On top of all the instantaneous benefits, it also saves the health system and patients money by cutting out administration costs for the former, and axing any travel expenditure for the latter. It also saves both parties time, which is an important factor when dealing with a constantly overworked health care system and diminished resources. When it comes to medical matters, time is the most precious commodity of all; the main benefit of telemedicine is that it saves time, and in the process, might just save more lives. Telemedicine is undoubtedly the future; but it is also the now.