The beginning of the digital era has brought many conveniences to the life of a person. With the help of internet connectivity, one can explore many places, learn new things, and even experience extraordinary events that one has never imagined decades before. In the healthcare sector, the concept and introduction of telemedicine is a life-saving approach in helping people obtain their individualized medical treatments. Imagine getting medical consultation with a Cardiologist from John Hopkins University while the patient is at a mountainous location in the Philippines or to deliver health education sessions to tribal mothers in South Africa with regards to child rearing and parenting; or when someone from the East Coast getting help with addiction from someone in the west coast. This article will explain the meaning of telemedicine and the elements or features it provides.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is defined as the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology (Oxford Dictionaries | English, 2016). The use of telecommunications technology would encompass telephonic, mobile, and electronic communications, in addition, a real-time or face-to-face interaction via internet and satellite connections to exchange health information between the patient and the medical providers.
On a broader aspect, telemedicine aims:
‘to provide, enhance, or expedite health care services, as by accessing offsite databases, linking clinics or physicians’ offices to central hospitals, or transmitting x-rays or other diagnostic images for examination at another site’, according to TheFreeDictionary.com.
Using these definitions, telemedicine can simply be understood as healing at a distance.
Elements of telemedicine
World Health Organization have identified four elements relevant to telemedicine (Telemedicine: Opportunities and Developments in the Member States, 2010):
- The purpose is to provide clinical support. Responding to an emergency situation offshore is very different compared to a medical situation being handled in the emergency room of a hospital. By giving remote medical advice or intervention, the treatment plan of the medical provider is intended as part of the telemedicine services as clinical support until the patient is being transferred or referred to a hospital and receive continuous medical care.
- Distance and far-flung places where people are unreachable to receive medical care is no longer a problem. Telemedicine can rise above any geographical barriers and it is connecting users who are not in the same physical location.
- Telemedicine involves the use of several types of information and communication technology (ICT) in order to relay medical information between patients and medical providers. Physical assessment, vital signs information, laboratory parameters, and medical imaging can now be transmitted to a doctor for clinical interpretation by utilizing the internet, cellular phones, mobile applications, and other related networks and services.
- The primary aim of telemedicine is to improve the health outcome of users. Telemedicine provides immediate medical help whenever and wherever needed to treat and stabilize a medical emergency – to promote wellness and to enhance optimal functioning.
Many countries, particularly those who are considered advanced in computer science and research, have already adopted telemedicine and has proven the many benefits to their citizens. It is the hope, and is still a work-in-progress, to expand telemedicine to third-world countries in order to help and manage medical conditions of people.