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Telemedicine empowers patients in remote areas

Telemedicine can also save lives and provide critical care in emergency situations. The technology allows communication between patients and medical staff, as well as the transmission of medical records, images, and other data to and from a remote location.

Early telemedicine used radio and telephone but now there are videotelephony, and telemedical devices that can provide advanced diagnostics, plus devices that support in-home care. There have been varying definitions and terms used for telemedicine: Some definitions (such as the definition given by the World Health Organization) include all aspects of healthcare including preventive care. The American Telemedicine Association uses the terms telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably, although it acknowledges that telehealth is sometimes used more broadly for remote health not involving active clinical treatments. eHealth is another related term, used particularly in the U.K. and Europe, as an umbrella term that includes telehealth, electronic medical records, and other components of health information technology.

Patients in remote communities can now receive care from doctors including specialists without having to travel long distances at great expense to visit them. There can even be discussion between multiple doctors as if they had all met together. Also patients can be monitored through mobile technology often reducing the need for outpatient visits. Telemedecine can also be used in medical education by allowing others to observe experts in their field. Some patients who would require an ambulance to visit a clinic or hospital can be served through telemedicine.

Some of the downsides of telemedicine are the cost of the telecommunication and data management equipment needed for it to operate. There are also some risks associated with the decreased in person rather than virtual interaction between medical professionals and patients. There is also a risk that health information may be compromised through electronic storage and transmission. In some cases, virtual consultation may increase rather than decrease the time taken to assess and treat patients.

For example a teledermatology consultation can take up to thirty minutes whereas in a conventional situation the consultation would take about half that time. However, the patient often avoids a time-consuming costly long trip possibly from a quite remote area. When this is considered there is no time efficiency in the conventional visit at all.

There is also some concern about the quality of images and information transmitted. When private insurers pay for health care there are concerns that companies may not be willing to pay for telemedicine. In many countries however, governments would likely be quite willing to fund telemedicine as it is likely to save them money, since alternative care is likely much more expensive. Another disadvantage is that in telemedicine treatment may not be able to be started immediately.

A recent study of Greenland residents showed that those in remote communities approved the idea of being served by telemedicine: Data collected on citizens’ views about the possibilities of using telemedicine in Greenland revealed the following findings: Greenlandic citizens are positive toward telemedicine, and telemedicine can help facilitate improved access to healthcare for residents in these Greenlandic settlements.
The study noted that the implementation of telemedicine in Greenland faced problems in obtaining equipment that was sufficiently mobile, and settlements were widely scattered. There were also some cultural problems. Parts of Canada’s north benefit from the Canadian Federal Government e-Health services.
The services in some areas run in cooperation with Inuit and First Nations groups.

Ontario is served by the non-profit telemedicine system Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). OTN is one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world. It is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. They work with 1,300 health care organizations and more than 8,000 health care providers across Ontario.

Private startups are eagerly trying to cash in on the new technology. For example MedCredits claims “they’re the first blockchain powered platform that connects providers to patients worldwide on a decentralized network. Many in the industry anxiously await the announcement or launch date for token sale, and MedX token price. To receive the blue ribbon that label’s them as the first company to successfully integrate blockchain technology and smart contracts into current healthcare designs would give them a proverbial leg up on the competition.”

There is even a Blockchain Healthcare Review. As the appended video shows, private companies are teaming up with doctors to build their own value from telemedicine.

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