Telehealth - The Future of Healthcare?
Computers, and the technology associated with them, are virtually indispensable in all aspects of our daily lives – healthcare being no exception.
As the population ages, grows and spreads out to remote areas, we must constantly look at ways of improving healthcare and preventing disease in the most cost-effective manner possible. Telehealth (or eHealth) offers us just that – new opportunities for communicating with patients and to serve people who are in poor health, live in remote areas and do not have adequate access to health care.Definitions:
- Telehealth can be described as a wide range of services coordinated, delivered and managed using telecommunication techniques and the exchange of electronic technologies.
- Telemedicine is the term that describes diagnosis and treatment assisted by this technology.
As with anything new, there are both positive and negative aspects associated with telehealth. To begin, let’s look at some of the applications and/or advantages of telehealth.Telenursing
Telenursing is a sub-category of telehealth in which nurses use telecommunication devices to deliver care to patients who live alone, live in remote areas, or who may be unable to travel to doctor’s appointments. Patients can be monitored remotely in order to better manage their chronic conditions. Telenursing allows for fewer nurses to deliver more care; a win-win situation for nurses and patients, and a measure that saves money across the board.Chronic Disease Management
The increase in the use of telecommunication has generated the realisation that many patients can be managed effectively from a distance using electronic capabilities. Many chronic conditions have become the focus of management, including diabetes, hypertension, heart failure and chronic lung conditions. Monitoring these patients remotely saves money and also increases the likelihood that an exacerbation of the chronic disease can be recognised and treated before hospitalisation becomes necessary. Such measures increase the patient’s confidence in managing their condition and improves their quality of life by keeping them in their homes.