Telehealth : The near future is here now

Telehealth is the use of telecommunication systems to provide health or medical care. Examples include videoconferencing, store and forward technologies, and remote monitoring devices. Over the last 5-10 years because the wide acceptance and option of broadband technology, the use of telehealth applications has substantially increased. The private sector is estimated to be worth over $1 billion by the end of 2010. Additionally, over $4 billion has been appropriated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support Health IT. The inspiration of telehealth technologies is supported by two main ideas, the lowering of travel time and its associated costs.

In line with the American Telemedicine Association, telehealth technologies provide a clinician the capacity to monitor and measure patient health data and emotional pet support information over geographical, social, and cultural distances. Additionally, these video and non-video technologies are utilized to get and transmit patient health information. Telehealth technologies can track the vital signs of patients with diseases, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, and other various chronic and acute illnesses. Telehealth systems are supported in hospitals and homes across the country, particularly for their preventive medicine applications. The faster information may be gathered and transferred to the appropriate professional, the better it is for the patient. Studies demonstrate a reduction in er visits and rescue calls, causing improved health outcomes for patients receiving continuous care via telehealth monitoring. These outcomes include a rise in medication compliance, a reduction in patient isolation, and improved use of immediate care and services.

Limited top speed access to the internet using geographic regions provides some difficulties in the delivery of telehealth applications, specifically real-time interactive video. Due to the bandwidth demands of interactive video, patients surviving in rural areas tend to utilize telephone or email applications instead. Another disadvantage is the possible lack of insurance reimbursement. Although there are certainly a few reimbursement models through Medicare, private insurance companies provide very little support for telehealth technologies. Additionally, the liabilities of intervention have yet to be fully understood as a result of novelty of this service delivery medium. One of many biggest setbacks for nationwide telehealth adoption is the price of the technology. Some large videoconferencing rooms could cost in the well over $200,000. However, as the technology components get cheaper and better, overall costs wil dramatically reduce over time.

Although many telehealth applications are related to elderly individuals, other arenas are now being tested and considered. Children with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities are now being treated and monitored by non-medical and medical professionals in the comfort of the home. By utilizing interactive video, the parents and children can have therapy sessions with their professional remotely. It is important to appreciate that this advanced interactive video is unlike standard web chat hardware and software. Advanced interactive video includes dynamic remote controls, pan-tilt-zoom camera capabilities, public and private audio modes, advanced video and audio clarity controls, and secure data encryption. Consequently, without these features, remote therapeutic improvements may well be more difficult to obtain.

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