How Telemedicine Can Improve Quality of Life for All Patients
We’ve all seen the changes in medicine over the course of our lives. If we were lucky enough to have lived during the turn of the century we witnessed the man with the little black bag fade off into the sunset with the days of the wild west. This transition was partly due to the invention of the telephone. No longer did anyone have to run to the neighbor or get on a horse in an emergency situation. They simply picked up the phone and the man with the little black bag would soon arrive at their door.
Later, as the population continued to grow and communities spread out for more than a few miles in every direction, the man with the little black bag decided it was best for his patients to come to him. The car was invented to help with that transition. They were faster, so people were able to get emergency treatment faster than ever before.
But the population continued to grow and visits to the doctor’s offices became long and complicated, often protruding into the lives of the patients. Waiting for hours didn’t serve anyone’s purposes well and the need to transition to a more efficient way of meeting medical needs became apparent.
We can see through the years, that the use of technology in treating patients is not a new one. One would venture to conclude that a careful search throughout history will reveal that technology on the part of medicine has been around as long as medical treatments have been used. So, we should not be surprised to see emerging trends in Tele-ICU care. A recent report from the California Health Care Foundation had this to say, “Recently, the traditional ICU model has been challenged by the increased demands of an aging population, too few critical care specialists to meet staffing targets, and heightened pressure from payers to demonstrate better quality and greater cost-effectiveness.”
Again, it is the same old issue that has interfered with getting quality health care for generations. More people put more demands on the current system and therefore force a change.
What is Tele-ICU?
Intensive care is one of the most important aspects of health care today. Every year more than 6 million people find themselves in an ICU somewhere in the country. Through Tele-ICU a communication network is set up which can relay vital sign monitors to communicate essential information for treatment in real time to a physician in a remote location. With the right information, consultation with a medical physician can insure that medical treatment starts much more quickly so that the patient does not receive delayed care.
In addition, physicians are not limited to the number of patients they can treat in this way, which can help to improve productivity levels and efficiency ratings for a medical team no matter where they are.
Where Can Tele-ICUs Be Used?
Tele-ICUs can be set up anywhere in the world. Having a connection to a Tele-ICU in remote locations could save many lives. In addition, they can also be used in larger cities where the population produces huge numbers of patients seeking treatment for a wide variety of conditions. As explained at the Center for Connected Health Policy, “Have the potential to address staffing shortages by electronically connecting ICUs to a central support center staffed by critical care specialists. The support center tracks patient statuses, issues alerts to on-site providers when a problem is detected, and recommends treatments via computerized decision support systems.”
The fact is that a Tele-ICU can be put in a wide range of settings even within the city limits. Aside from connecting to remote locations, specialists can treat a patient in another city (or even country) with the help of a Tele-ICU, triage situations can become more efficient in the event of a local or national disaster, and rural areas will be able to get emergency treatment at a much faster rate.
Improved Quality of Health Care
There is an added benefit to utilizing Tele-ICUs even in settings where a fully staffed ICU is already in operation. Through the course of several different studies, reports returned showing reduced mortality rates in ICU patients as well as shorter hospital stays as a result. This will over time translate into lower costs for patient care as well as for the medical institution. As explained in a report issued by Himss, “The benefits of Tele-ICU systems have been shown to reduce ICU length of stay and improve other patient outcome measures. For hospitals that have not yet implemented Tele-ICU but are considering the technology, it is important to realize that Tele-ICU has been documented to improve outcomes in numerous healthcare settings.”
Today, telemedicine is gradually becoming the service of choice in many scenarios. Its wide range of possibilities can be far reaching and can improve the quality of life for many people. With its ability to cover nearly every aspect of medicine from conducting regular patient visits, getting prescriptions online, to managing life-threatening situations, patients are seeing a much better future when it comes to medicine.
As the population continues to grow and greater demands are imposed on the medical world, incorporating innovative technology like telemedicine into health care will be instrumental in keeping up with the growing needs of society. While very charming and quaint, no one really wants to go back to those days with the man and the black bag coming to the door. Our lives have grown far more demanding than that and modern technology is now the way we must all meet our needs.
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