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Telemedicine is a relatively new phenomenon in the healthcare system that incorporates a variety of features associated with care delivery. Telemedicine was implemented to facilitate healthcare-related processes in remote areas in the past. Presently, the notion is also adopted as an economic trigger, an educational element, and a step into new direction within the field of medicine. Telemedicine is an important component of healthcare due to a number of attributes (low-cost, efficiency, accessibility, among others) that promote the development of medicine and may be applied in such spheres as education, management, economy etc.
Telemedicine: Healthcare and Economic Aspects
Telemedicine (also known as telehealth) is one of the most promising areas of the healthcare system that incorporates a variety of aspects. It is defined as a mechanism that enables doctors and patients to overcome obstacles related to location, time, and finances using communication technologies (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Thus, the notion is widely accepted as an effective, inexpensive and practical approach to diagnose and treat numerous disorders and conditions (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). It should be noted that the technology has greatly developed since it has been launched in 1960s; moreover, it continues to progress and improve in order to adhere to modern medical standards (Lambert, Gale, Hartley, Croll, & Hansen, 2016). Therefore, the conducted studies emphasize the importance of telemedicine in different spheres connected with care delivery and economy. In this context, historical background provides a deeper understanding of the notion.
In the twentieth century, technology started to change lives and various programs were introduced including telemedicine. The main purpose of telemedicine was to ensure a proper access to medical knowledge, doctors, and patients. However, such programs were limited by the devices that lack modern mobility. As a rule, first telemedicine scenarios were implemented at such locations as academic medical centers that were equipped to transmit signals (Lambert et al., 2016). The tools that were used were expensive and large thus complicating the process of transmitting audio and video signals (Lambert et al., 2016). Therefore, telemedicine was relatively limited during the first decades.
In the end of the twentieth century, the concept became more available due to improved mobile technologies that could be utilized in homes, hospitals and clinic offices. Consequently, in 2000 independent telehealth networks were established because of a growing demand for such a service (Singh, Mathiassen, & Mishra, 2015). Telemedicine was effective, for example, in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina created a need to connect healthcare providers with regional hospitals (Singh, Mathiassen, & Mishra, 2015). Presently, remote health support is regarded as an important element of delivering medical care in rural areas. Moreover, particular policies are developed to implement programs that help to integrate healthcare into various population groups. Hence, this tendency is supported by the Affordable Care Act that proposes to use telemedicine for the benefits of the health care industry (Lambert et al., 2016, p. 367). Therefore, telemedicine is a crucial component of the modern healthcare system.
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The notion of telemedicine is often considered in terms of health care delivery. According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine, access to healthcare is defined as the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best possible health outcomes (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015, p. 756). In this context, telemedicine is aimed at ensuring that patients receive medical attention in the most beneficial and cost-effective manner. Advantages of this approach are based on its opportunities. For example, remote medical support helps to minimize time and efforts that are usually spent on travelling between facilities. Additionally, the approach reduces the costs of monitoring patients and enables healthcare providers to intervene or prevent complications in cases of patients with chronic conditions, for instance (Burch, Gray, David, & Sharp, 2017). Consequently, doctors and patients often choose to use technology instead of being admitted and diagnosed at hospitals.
Telemedicine is a healthcare issue with wide applicability. The concept is useful in providing information via such resources as WebMD.com, Medscape.com, Medline- Plus.gov, and others (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Moreover, telemedicine has been successfully applied to diagnose and treat a variety of disorders and diseases that range from psychological to neurological and oncological cases. It should be noted that over 200 telemedicine networks are used to work in approximately 3,500 sites in the United States (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Thus, such a base helps to overcome geographical and economical barriers and improve healthcare services.
Telemedicine is also related to economic aspects in terms of enhancing the healthcare system. Singh, Mathiassen and Mishra (2015) emphasize a general tendency according to which technological innovations are important drivers of economic progress (p. 643). In this regard, telemedicine serves as a means to deal with such aspects as lack of medical centers, travel expenses, shortage of doctors, and issues related to economic downfalls (for instance, salaries of healthcare professionals) (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Therefore, telemedicine became a part of the market. According to the American Telemedicine Association, the overall market of such services was estimated in more than 13 billion dollars (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Nevertheless, these indicators are partly the results of the work of the first telehealth company known as Teladoc that encounters over 11 million healthcare providers and had more than 500,000 virtual cases in 2015 (Grube, 2016). It should be noted that remote visits to doctors last for less than 10 minutes and resolve 92% of all the cases (Grube, 2016). Thus, telemedicine helps to utilize available resources in order to bring cost-effective outcomes.
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Telemedicine is a notion that is supported and promoted by stakeholders as a means to improve healthcare services. Telemedicine operates on the basis of interactions between the stakeholders, namely patients, healthcare providers, and administrators (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Patients, who are the main users of the technology, rely on telemedicine to deal with a variety of health concerns via emails, videos, texts, among others. It is an acceptable option for patients who struggle with geographical or financial issues to resort to remote health support. According to statistical data, more than 70% of patients in the United States prioritize telemedicine over face-to-face interactions with physicians (Burch, Gray, David, & Sharp, 2017). As a result, users receive help and assistance in a more comfortable environment that also allows saving expenses.
Physicians utilize telemedicine in an effort to increase productivity of their work and get access to more resources available to other colleagues. Stakeholders are also supported by the government that implements numerous programs. For instance, physicians who use telemedicine receive 10% of their salaries as bonuses (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Additionally, doctors at Teladoc and other networks receive such benefits as reduced time away from work and higher number of patients (Grube, 2016). Telehealth is appreciated by, for example, nurse practitioners who develop telemedicine skills as a part of their core competencies (Kippenbrock, Lo, Odell, & Buron, 2017). Presently, telemedicine is considered to be an integral part of the clinical practice. The goal of such an approach to healthcare is to meet more patients’ needs, especially in rural areas. Additionally, telemedicine helps to mitigate shortage of professional and experienced workers.
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The government also acts as a stakeholder that utilizes telemedicine to organize financial and structural resources. In this regard, the U.S. Public Health Service Act recognizes telemedicine as a means to manage healthcare in rural communities (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). The government and hospital administrations cooperate to introduce telemedicine in more facilities. For example, such federal programs as WIC, Medicare, Medicaid were designed to provide more remote medical services around the country (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Therefore, telemental health is no longer regarded as one of the ways to improve the healthcare system but is widely used by stakeholders to create more cost-effective opportunities within the healthcare system.
Ways to Address Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a multidimensional concept that may be addressed from different perspectives. The healthcare approach to the notion draws upon the more general idea of telemedicine, which emphasizes its benefits such as effective doctor-patient interactions, low-cost medical examinations, remote patient monitoring among others (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Telemedicine may also be viewed as an element of technological progress. The concept is often regarded as innovative and is based on advance technological decisions. Within this framework, a number of telemedicine healthcare networks is as impressive as their features that enable medical personnel, patients and medical centers to communicate in real time (Ishfaq & Raja, 2015). Hence, this approach defines telehealth as a significant element of healthcare delivery.
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Furthermore, telemedicine may be addressed as an educational element of the healthcare system. It is emphasized by Smith and Satyshur (2016) that telemedicine should be introduced into nursing curricula and extend existing undergraduate nursing programs. Thus, this approach involves information about telecommunication, management, regulations and other aspects (Smith & Satyshur, 2016). Moreover, simulation experiences provided by telemedicine may be used to haunt professional skills among registered nurses, for example (Smith, & Satyshur, 2016). It should also be noted that economic indicators might investigate the issue in terms of progress. It is estimated that telehealth is one of the five fastest-growing industries in the nation, with revenue expected to increase more than five-fold from 2014 to 2020 (Grube, 2016, p. 44). If all these approaches are considered and developed in the future, telemedicine will have a great impact on the healthcare system.
The Intended Impact on the Future of Healthcare System
Telemedicine has greatly changed since it has been introduced, and it still continues to develop as well as influence the healthcare. The main changes are based on the need to make medicine more available in different regions. Besides, this impact is exerted by the mobile technology that rapidly improves. Consequently, this tendency allows applying telemedicine in the rural areas and the most remote environments, in particular Antarctica. Apart from underserved regions such as developing countries, remote diagnostics is adopted and developed by NASA as the way to diagnose and treat astronauts in space (Menon et al., 2016). In the future telemedicine is expected to become a universal approach to health delivery. Therefore, it is one of the priority of Healthy People 2020 with an accent on improving rural healthcare delivery (Smith & Satyshur, 2016). As a result, medical assistance will be effectively provided in every part of the world and in space.
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Telemedicine is an important element that is widely utilized by the healthcare system as a low-cost, effective and accessible technology. Additionally, the technology is used in education, management, and economy. Telemedicine ensures proper access to medical knowledge and adheres to modern medical standards. A demand for remote medical services has grown since the 1960s when the concept was introduced. Presently, telemedicine includes over 200 networks and is promoted on the federal level by, for example, the Affordable Care Act, and stakeholders (patients, healthcare providers and administrators). Therefore, telemedicine is expected to be commonly utilized in various graduate programs for healthcare providers who would be able to continue deliver medical help to the most remote areas, even in the open space (according to NASA practice). Thus, telemedicine allows overcoming geographical and economic obstacles to deliver medical care and correct existing disparities in the healthcare system. Additionally, the concept has a great potential and continues to develop.
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