Telehealth technology allows organizations to provide medical services and wellness education to a broad population. The field encompasses a wide array of services delivered using remote communication. Some care providers use the terms ‘telemedicine’ and ‘telehealth’ interchangeably. However, as more disciplines adopt remote treatment technologies, the term ‘telehealth’ is growing in popularity among various fields that include but are not limited to:
- Disaster recovery
- Home health services
- Physical therapy
Telehealth as a whole encompasses four distinct areas: live video, store-and-forward email, remote patient monitoring (RPM) and mobile health (mHealth).
Care providers interact with patients in real time using live video conferencing. The communications technologies may include all-in-one videoconferencing devices, exterior cameras, Internet cameras or videoscopes. So far, care providers use live video more often than all other telehealth technologies. To view patients, care providers might use computer monitors, flat screen televisions, projectors or tablets. Video conferencing serves as a cost-effective solution for delivering services to patients who are difficult to access, such as patients who are institutionalized or live in rural areas. In addition to connecting to patients, video conferencing enables care providers to meet with specialists who may not have the time or means to meet in person. Care providers also use live video conferencing equipment to deliver critical health services such as emergency consultations.
In intensive care units (ICUs), live video equipment gives providers a way to view and communicate with patients in real time. Additionally, care providers and medical organizations use live video conferencing to educate consumers about health-related matters. By improving consumer access to health services and education, live video technology helps raise community wellness and overall patient satisfaction.
Care providers use secure store-and-forward email technologies to share assets such as diagnostic images, documents, medical data and video content.  This information might include:
- Electronic health records (EHRs)
- Magnetic resonance images (MRIs)
- Recorded video examinations
Care providers typically use store-and-forward communications to share information with other specialists for diagnoses that do not require real-time dialogue. The technology eliminates the need to coordinate the schedules of multiple stakeholders such as patients, primary care providers and specialists, thereby increasing efficiency in delivering needed treatments.
Store-and-forward technology also allows consumers to receive specialty services at the facility of a primary care provider, rather than traveling to another location for supplementary treatment. This reduces the time that consumers must wait for specialists to deliver their services. Additionally, primary care providers and specialists can review patient information at any time and from virtually any location. Care providers also use the technology to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote patient monitoring, also called remote patient management, allows care providers to gather consumer health information outside of the traditional service environment.  With the technology, physicians provide treatment where patients live, build a bridge to health resources, and allow consumers to remain where they feel most comfortable. Although highly advanced, RPM devices are popular with consumers because of their user-friendly interfaces. Today, even senior citizens favor the latest remote monitoring equipment with its familiar designs that mimic computer tablets and smart phones.
Remote patient monitoring increases patient comfort and engagement. By participating in their own recoveries, consumers improve their quality of care. Easy-to-use RPM frameworks incentivize consumers to take a more active role in their own treatment. Increased consumer engagement and ongoing monitoring capabilities give care providers an enhanced understanding of each patient’s overall health. Moreover, the ongoing data the technology provides gives medical professionals a clearer, more detailed overview of consumer health conditions.
Mobile Health (mHealth)
Relatively recently, important resources such as retail goods and financial services have become available to consumers through mobile technology.  Now, this same transition has taken place in the healthcare field. Mobile health, also called mHealth, refers to a specific subsection of telehealth services in which care providers use mobile technology to promote wellness.
mHealth encompasses technologies that consumers use to obtain self-directed care. They include the mobile applications, devices and connections that facilitate digital communication between care providers and consumers. Healthcare administrators, for example, might deploy the technology to aid in attaining community wellness objectives.
The technology also aids in medical research, helps improve service delivery and promotes positive treatment outcomes. Using devices such as smartphones and tablets, consumers can acquire and record their own health information without interacting with a care provider. These applications allow consumers to track basic information such as fitness and well-being metrics. Using the technology, care providers deliver important health information, promote consumer health, and eliminate the need for direct interaction with consumers.
Most medical professionals believe that telehealth technology expedites service delivery. These innovations have changed the way medical professionals deliver services. As time goes on, telehealth technology will continue to improve its ability to positively impact treatment outcomes for consumers around the world.
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