Telemedicine is defined as the practice of using telecommunication and information technology to provide healthcare to patients who are far away from doctors or physicians. Telemedicine makes use of various applications and services along with several modes of telecommunication such as video calling, email, wireless networking and smartphones for exchange of medical information.
Telemedicine, although it may seem starkly different from conventional medical practices, is usually treated as a specialty of general healthcare services. American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has considered telemedicine and telehealth to be interchangeable terms, and has no separate codes for medical bills for on-site treatment and telemedicine services.
Some of the services which are included among telemedicine solutions are:
• Remote Medical Consultancy: A doctor can communicate with the patient via live video calling or store-and-forward process (which involves the collection of patient data and forwarding it to the doctor when convenient) to remotely diagnose health problems.
• Remote Monitoring of Patients: It makes use of devices capable of remotely collecting data such as blood glucose level, heart ECG and various other indicators from patients and sending it to a remote health agency or remote diagnostic centers to interpret the data.
• Medical Information Exchange: Here, a doctor can communicate with patients facing similar medical problems at the same time via video feeds and online chat groups to provide peer-to-peer support on various symptoms and other data.
• Healthcare Education: It involves the provision of informational resources in the form of medical education and knowledge to health specialists and physicians located in remote areas.
According to American Telemedicine Association, there are about 200 existing telemedicine networks in the United States, which provide connectivity to over 3000 sites. Moreover, market research organizations expect the telehealth market to keep growing by 32% annually, which started in 2013, until at least 2018; this value will keep on growing further, depending directly on the rise in the number of internet users globally.
For a healthcare center/hospital to set up a telemedicine network, expertise is needed in setting up back-end web servers and industry standard networking and telemedicine solutions for uninterrupted and reliable connection between doctors and patients. The firms which are hired for such purposes offer services like live video connections, web-based applications and mobility solutions for seamless telemedicine services.