What is Telehealth?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a range of articles covering everything you need to know about telehealth, from what it is, the pro’s and cons, potential barriers and more!
What is Telehealth?
The NHS state ‘Telehealth involves using technology to enable healthcare professionals to remotely monitor data on certain aspects of a patient’s health. It may include sensors that can monitor the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood, or more straightforward examples, such as telephone check-ups.’
Telehealth is typically used by the NHS and private health organisations to remotely monitor patients with long term conditions such as COPD, chronic heart failure or diabetes. Telehealth is also often used to monitor the vital signs of those recently discharged from the hospital. This enables care teams to keep a track of patient progress and intervene where necessary, without the need for regular face to face appointments. In addition to being used for interaction between a patient and healthcare professional, telehealth solutions can also be used to connect healthcare professionals with one another, whether it be for an MDT, cross-site trust meeting or for Morbidity and Mortality meetings.
The aim of utilising this solution is to eliminate the barriers of distance, provide equal access to healthcare services, reduce waiting times, and to enhance communications overall to help the healthcare industry run even more efficiently.
In today’s fast-paced environment, patients want access to healthcare quickly and to spend less time sitting in waiting rooms. This expectation and demand for more convenient care only continue to add an enormous amount of pressure on the healthcare industry. This has led to the industry beginning to look into providing telehealth services over the next few years, which is reinforced by the NHS stating in their long term plan that, ‘Over the next five years, every patient will have the right to online ‘digital’ GP consultations, and redesigned hospital support, will be able to avoid up to a third of outpatient appointments – saving patients 30 million trips to hospital, and saving the NHS over £1 billion a year’. (https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/overview-and-summary/)
Providing a telehealth option gives medical practices a competitive edge within healthcare. It’s becoming increasingly common for patients to use technology to monitor and track their health (Apple Watch, Fitbit etc.) and some platforms are able to integrate with these devices, making the data available for physicians. Simple medical devices at home that can measure things like glucose levels, heart, blood pressure etc. can also integrate into telehealth solutions.