The COVID-19 pandemic has given a fresh boost to the long-anticipated surge in telemedicine services globally. Consulting a doctor or any other health professional over phone, video or text is now the new normal for many non-urgent medical needs, while the current health emergency has sparked renewed interest in digital ways to test and monitor at-risk patients safely, at home.
Telemedicine has previously been limited to the exchange of medical information using telecommunications, however, with the influx of advanced, new-age technologies telecom industry has evolved to encompass technical advancements that link healthcare providers with home-based tools to track patient biometrics, such as digital stethoscopes and otoscopes. Several health conditions can now be monitored remotely-ranging from chronic diseases to mental making use of app-based solutions that connect patients to healthcare providers.
Till date, telemedicine has never been utilized until its full potential. Policymakers, professional organizations, and public commissions have laid down various policies that are framed keeping in mind the concerns of patient safety. However, those restrictions are now being lifted in many parts of the world due to Covid-19 as the pandemic calls for safe, remote testing & monitoring.
How far can telemedicine be utilized in healthcare?
Given the fact that technology is widening virtual diagnoses and delivery, healthcare practitioners still need to see patients in person. Connecting through digital mechanisms are great ways to facilitate initial contact with patients, but they cannot substitute for diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and other complex evaluation that can be made only after physically inspecting the patient.
What telemedicine holds at present, and for the future?
In wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine has facilitated health care providers triage few patients through virtual consultations. Screening patients before they arrive at the healthcare establishment upgrade efficiency and safety, as pre-screened patients spend less time waiting for care and health practitioners have a better insight into what services to be provided.
In the future, tele-screening shall continue to grow in popularity. Remote diagnostic tools shall witness huge demand in urban as well as rural regions. With the integration of futuristic technology like AI, existing healthcare technologies will become more efficient. Emerging technologies like portable lung and cardiac monitors will gain popularity and will be able to transmit data to the physician on a real-time basis.
Granted, there still remains a question about telemedicine that needs to be answered, there are issues of privacy, affordability, and accessibility that needs to be addressed before telemedicine becomes completely reliable and universally accepted.
Covid-19 has forced the healthcare sector to develop innovative ways of improving care and saving lives. It has brought into focus the potential of telecommunication and the advantages of integration of telecom and healthcare.
The rise of telemedicine may not only put a check on the spread of the infection but it would also help reshape global economic recovery and future healthcare services in a post-pandemic world.