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Telemedicine: A Life Changing Revolution

Written by Salina Shafi

Edited by Sharon Park and Jocelyn Wang


Hi everyone! Thanks for checking out the first article in our Technologies in Medicine series! This series covers significant and relevant developments in medicine that have helped society as a whole. In this article, Salina explains what Telemedicine is, and how vital it is for healthcare in today's world. Happy Reading!

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The Average Experience:

She sat quietly in the car and waited to get to her doctor’s appointment. It was difficult for her parents to set up the appointment in the first place! She really needed to get this rash checked out; it was really irritating her. Her dad was on hold for an hour before the scheduler eventually told them that they did not have any appointments for new patients. The scheduler told them to call back later in the hope that an appointment would be available. They had waited for a few days, calling everyday while the rash got worse and worse. Eventually they got an appointment, but the clinic was an hour away. Reluctantly, her parents took the appointment and cleared their schedules for the day.



The clinic was an hour away, so they left the house 90 minutes before the appointment. Her mom calmly followed the directions to the clinic while her dad made small talk and kept the music going. She looked around at all of the cars around her; they were barely moving. The clinic was still 30 minutes away, and the appointment was in 20 minutes. She hoped that the clinic would still let her see the doctor. Her mom kept her cool as she tried to safely get them there in time. They finally get to the clinic, all but ten minutes after the appointment time. Her mom drops her and her dad off in the front so that they can rush upstairs to the check-in desk. Her mom drove the car around to the parking lot while her dad held her hand and walked her to the elevator. He looks around quickly to find the right floor. They finally made it to the desk and tried to check in. The receptionist told them that their appointment time was over and that they were 19 minutes late.


They had officially missed their appointment. Just as the receptionist finished telling them this, her mom arrived and joined them at the front desk. Her heart dropped as she realized what this meant.

Just as they were about to walk away, the receptionist stopped them and asked them how urgent their concerns are. Her parents explain how they have been waiting for an appointment for so long and how urgent it was to get this rash taken care of. The receptionist shows them how to make virtual appointments where they can meet with a provider virtually. They even had an option for an emergency visit. The receptionist helps them book a virtual appointment that would start in two hours. They could join from the comfort of their house and the provider would be able to see the rash and prescribe accordingly. If the provider has additional concerns, then they would be able to get an urgent appointment and see a provider as soon as possible and somewhere closer to their home. Both of her parents beamed with happiness. They would be able to provide access to healthcare now anytime, anywhere.



Later that day, both of her parents logged on for the video chat with the provider. It was a struggle to get on the right website at first, but eventually they were able to get to the virtual waiting room. All three of them sat around the computer and talked to the provider. She showed her rash to the provider, and they were able to ask her follow up questions and get the right medication prescribed to her.

That is technology in medication at its best.


Reality Settles In:

Telemedicine is where patients are able to receive healthcare remotely. It is often regarded as digital medicine because providers are able to communicate with patients without being in the same room. It even allows providers from all kinds of backgrounds to come together and collaborate. In the United States, access to healthcare is still a complicated topic for many. With how medicine is continuing to advance, so does the technological aspect that aligns with providing medical care. It can be difficult to find specialty healthcare providers in rural areas. Patients often have to drive over to nearby cities just to see the doctors for the initial visit. Through telemedicine, a lot of hospitals have established a line where patients can call and speak to a nurse about any post-op concerns.



All of this communication is absolutely essential, but it can be difficult for those who live hours from the nearest large-scale hospital. Telemedicine just makes medicine easier.

Telemedicine allows providers to have confidential conversations with their patients about their health. Patients are able to voice their concerns and ask questions without ever having to leave their homes. It saves time for both the patient and the provider. Doctor’s appointments are on average about 10-15 minutes. Patients are able to get the most of their time and their provider’s time.


Some Effects of Telemedicine on Healthcare:

In special cases, the healthcare provider is able to look at the patient’s environment at home. This is done with the consent of the patient. It can help identify any external structures that may be affecting the patient’s health. Seeing even a glimpse of the patient’s comfort area can help the provider understand the situation in entirety. It can help identify an allergy or maybe allow the provider to suggest an alternative method of treatment based on the patient’s environment.


Because the appointment takes place virtually, providers are able to collaborate with other providers. A common concern that patients have is that they won't get the attention or care of the entire healthcare team, but this is not true! Within a single clinic, the entire healthcare team is constantly communicating and working together to ensure that your needs are met. The beauty of telemedicine also means that professionals are able to contact other professionals virtually. This makes it so much easier for them to collaborate with each other and ensures that the patient receives a second or even third opinion.





Improvements for the Future:

Although many clinics use software that is meant to be convenient and easy to use, it can be difficult for pediatric and elder patients to access a doctor’s appointment. Technology is a finicky concept. It is easy for some and difficult for others. Many patients are not even able to access their virtual chart that has all of their medical history. One of the most common complaints about telemedicine is that it is difficult to make appointments and use the online software. A simple fix for this would be to provide classes or an instructional video on how to complete basic tasks through the secure software. Clinics that have been able to implement this solution have had a great response from patients. Most do prefer virtual resources that are available for them to simply review at any time. More hospitals and clinics are in the process of implementing these resources. Not to mention that the patient will need a stable internet connection and a device to join the meeting from. Most patients will join from their home because it is a comfortable environment.



Something that is often overlooked in telemedicine is that the patient’s vitals are not being taken. It is a common concern that patients have and a valid concern it is. Vitals such as blood pressure readings and other lab results can really help a healthcare provider diagnose a patient.

Hospitals are still in the midst of creating a faster system for when a tele-visit requires lab work. For most patients, the provider will call in the lab work and then the patient is to come in at their own discretion. The provider will be able to diagnose once those labs are completed. It is possible for them to meet virtually to discuss the results, but the patient will have to go in person to complete their labs.


During the beginning of the pandemic, some patients were able to take basic vitals at home, like their glucose levels or weight, and have them ready for the provider. While this was a temporary solution, it allowed many patients to see their provider and provide as much information as possible. Glucose readings can determine whether medications need to be altered or not.

Height readings can allow providers to ensure that a child is growing normally. These are all examples of how people have had to improvise when they weren’t able to come in person to the clinic.


Telemedicine is a great solution to many issues that patients face when wanting to get healthcare, but there is still so much more room for improvement. As technology advances, so will medicine.




------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thanks for reading the first article in our Technologies in Medicine series! We hope you learned about the benefits of Telemedicine, as well as how it can be improved in the future.


If you enjoyed reading this article, check out our Stanford Prison Experiment series, with Part 1 and Part 2. These articles cover the history, process, and the significance of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and how it has impacted psychology.


See you on the next article,

Salina and the Writing Committee :)


Resources

How to collect patient vitals for telehealth visits, including awvs. Home. (2020, May 29). Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/fpm/blogs/inpractice/entry/telehealth_visit_vitals.html

Benefits of telemedicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022, January 18). Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/benefits-of-telemedicine

​​Telehealth seems here to stay – so how can it be improved? Healthcare IT News. (2020, August 14). Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/telehealth-seems-here-stay-so-how-can-it-be-improved




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