Advancing health care includes not only improving treatment and management options for conditions from A to Z, but also developing newer, more convenient ways to deliver care. Innovative and expanded ways of delivering care are especially important to older adults and people in rural areas, which tend to have fewer doctors and limited access to specialized services, such as neurology, maternal-fetal medicine, and cardiac care. One important way care and services can be delivered to those who need it is through the adoption and expansion of telemedicine.
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What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine connects patients with medical specialists remotely through a secure internet connection. Additionally, remote monitoring technologies allow patients to share health-related data with their provider – such as their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and heart rates – without an office visit.
Telemedicine has been used for years by doctors practicing in remote or rural regions, allowing them to remotely consult with specialists who are located elsewhere. Today, advances in technology have expanded telemedicine’s capabilities to consumer care. Video-conferencing, for instance, is used to connect patients to doctors when in-office appointments are not available. And with the use of remote monitoring technology, patients are directly connected with their care teams in an asynchronous way. Patients can answer questions about their health, watch educational videos, and provide information about how they’re doing at home so their care team can care for them remotely. The technology can be deployed using a health kit that is shipped to the patient’s home or by utilizing their own smartphone.
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Benefits of Telemedicine
There are many benefits to telemedicine:
- It helps patients who live in an area with few medical providers receive regular care.
- It easily connects patients to specialists that they may not otherwise have local access to.
- It allows patients to more easily access care they need without the added costs of travel or additional time off work. Older adults, who may have difficulty leaving their homes, or who require home-based care, no longer have to travel for a follow-up visit or check-up with a doctor.
Doctor’s offices benefit by:
- Streamlining patient flow, possibly allowing health care providers to see more patients than previously possible
- Being able to directly access information through the patient’s electronic health record that has been shared from the patient utilizing remote patient monitoring programs
- Decrease in rent and staffing costs
Telemedicine represents an exciting advancement in both the efficiency and accessibility of health care. With telemedicine technology, doctors and patients can connect and exchange information remotely, giving wider access to the best quality medical care for everyone, regardless of where the doctor or patient are located.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.