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.
A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.