As the Rocky Mountain region prepares for the first snowstorm of the season, western Pacific islands are preparing for Super Typhoon Hagibis. In the face of natural disasters or other emergencies, accessible healthcare is critical — and telehealth might be the answer.
Telehealth provides long-distance medical care, health education, health administration, and other similar services through telecommunications and digital communications. Although often confused with telemedicine, which refers only to administering medical care, telehealth is an array of healthcare functions.
Multiple technologies are employed in telehealth, and there are still more to come. Among these are video conferencing, mobile health (mHealth), remote patient monitoring (RPM), and store and forward. So how do these work?
For rural communities or people who are unable to travel, distance is a health issue. Now with just a video call, a physician can offer a non-emergency consultation from thousands of miles away. Telehealth can also be found right on our smartphones with multiple mHealth apps offering access to medical data, schedule appointments, and in-app physician messaging.
RPM devices collect patient data and securely transmit it back to the care provider for analysis. They don’t have to be uncomfortable or burdensome — RPM technology can often be a Fitbit-like device or a mobile app. By gathering and analyzing information like blood sugar levels, heart rate, and more, RPM reduces cost and improves quality care.
Oftentimes health experts aren’t geographically located nearby, but there’s no longer a need to travel to another city. Store and forward technology captures health information like CAT scans and MRIs to send to other specialists for treatment assistance.
Multiple hospitals have already deployed telehealth services to the Bahamas and other impacted communities. Immediate health care access is vital after natural disasters, but telehealth can also reach rural and underserved communities that can not traditionally access services.
Take veterans, for example. Telehealth isn’t new for the Veteran Affairs (VA), and they’ve long been pioneers in the telehealth industry. VAVideoConnect enhances the medical care of nine million veterans by connecting them to their health care team in a private session.
Telehealth also has a place in the battlefield. The Department of Defense (DoD) has partnered with GlobalMed to provide soldiers virtual care worldwide. Active duty members and their dependents can access quality healthcare through secured networks no matter where they are in the world.
Telehealth is still evolving, and it has the potential to provide solutions for rural communities, emergency management, and public defense. Learn more about other ways to reach rural communities.