Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services
Telemedicine has been a part of physician-patient interaction since the 1970s. Over the years, advances in communications technologies have allowed for exponential growth in the number of applications that telemedicine can provide.
Potentially the most valuable advancement in telemedicine is a solution that enables physicians to virtually examine patients from thousands of miles away via video conferencing.
Live, two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or provider) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology, can be used for both consultative and diagnostic and treatment services.
This type of service serves as a substitute for an in-person encounter when it is not available.
Telemedicine also means that practices no longer have to rely on the telephone for scheduling patient appointments and making call backs
Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and independent vendors also offer online appointment scheduling. Other mobile applications range from targeted text messages that promote healthy behavior to wide-scale alerts about disease outbreaks.
More recently, EHRs and dedicated apps have enabled secure email communication with patients, improving access and information sharing
Telemedicine has also allowed for remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring can help individuals stay healthy in their home and community, without having to physically go to their health providers’ office.
Personal health and medical data is collected from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, then transmitted to a provider (sometimes via a data processing service) in a different location for use in care and related support.
This type of service allows a provider to continue to track healthcare data for a patient once released to home or a care facility, reducing readmission rates.
Telemedicine has also made data-sharing safer and easier
The safe transmission of recorded health history (for example, pre-recorded videos and digital images such as x-rays and photos) through a secure electronic communications system has broken down the barrier of distance.
Documents can be easily sent to a practitioner, usually a specialist, who uses the information to evaluate the case or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction.
Will Telemedicine make a difference to orthopaedics?
In 2010, the U.S. military introduced a program utilising telemedicine to increase the number of consultations performed by orthopaedic physicians overseeing U.S. troops.
The pilot program involved surgical candidates consulting with an orthopaedic surgeon via a video teleconference.
This early pilot programme was not without challenges. Physicians highlighted the need for human intervention or input – how can orthopedic surgeons do appointments without touching or examining the wound in-person?
Physicians were also deterred from conducting video patient visits due to high costs, difficulty of use, potential liability exposure, geographic barriers with licensing, and conflicts involving HIPAA-compliant healthcare delivery.
While the early program identified many issues with the service, many of these concerns have been addressed as technology has become more sophisticated and efficient.
While originally appearing to be a speciality that may not suit telemedicine, orthopaedics now, unexpectedly, seems to be a good fit for telemedicine.
Today’s modern patient wants better access to their doctor, including after work and on weekends. With 64% of patients expressing an interest in telemedicine and 97% expressing frustration with wait times at the doctor’s office, patients are looking for more convenient care.
Concerns over whether patients feel comfortable and competent using telemedicine software to consult with practitioners has proved unfounded, in part due to the proliferation of smartphone and tablet use among all age groups.
Telemedical research branches among hospitals and universities have contributed to a rapid increase in the acceptance and use of telemedicine
Distance education and training for orthopaedics and traumatology of the musculoskeletal system is now used worldwide. Orthopaedic webinars, together with online testing procedures, now lead today’s orthopaedic surgeons into a new era of continuous education.
Telemedicine, while still in it’s early stages, is being actively embraced by the orthopaedic industry. But is it here to stay?
The use of telemedicine for orthopaedics and traumatology of the musculoskeletal system available via IHE online.
Orthopaedic Telemedicine: Will It Catch On? Available via AAOS
What is Telehealth? Available via CCHPCA.org
Tailoring telemedicine to deliver optimum orthopaedic care available via AAOS