The internet makes it possible to offer low-cost clinical experiences to patients. Telehealth allows disseminating information about doctors, medicines, and treatments via the internet.
Where previously it was impossible to connect with patients in far-off locations, telehealth and the internet enables online consultation, receiving medical reports, and ordering medicines at your doorstep. Here are eight ways the internet has vastly reduced barriers to medical care and access.
Table of Contents
1. Tele-Visits And Telemedicine
Telemedicine is the usage of technology for diagnosing or treating patients remotely. Through computers, virtual consultations, and messaging, you can book online and in-person consultations, view lab reports, and order medicine from the comfort of your home.
Previously where you had to book appointments in-person or over the phone and wait in long queues, now you can do that via the internet.
In addition, many hospitals allow you to book in-person and online consultations via their website or mobile applications. You can also add your banking information and pay consultation fees without going through the tedious process at a hospital’s reception.
2. Online Health Resources
When the world came to a halt during the start of the pandemic, the primary concern of healthcare experts and organizations was relaying accurate information to people stuck in lockdown. Through the internet, organizations like the WHO and medical research universities broadcast information regarding COVID-19 symptoms and safety protocols.
Before the pandemic, people relied on online resources like WebMD and Cleveland Health Clinic for authentic information on symptoms, causes, and treatments of health illnesses and issues. As we become more dependent on technology, whenever you experience strange symptoms, instinctually, you might hop on to Google to search for possible treatment plans or illnesses.
The internet has also made it feasible for medical professionals like nurses to acquire further education by enrolling in courses like online DNP programs or attaining specialization through e-learning. Nurses are the backbone of healthcare as they provide primary and preventative care, which determines the course of treatment for a patient.
Therefore, an online degree is not only cost-effective but time-saving.
3. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
With the help of electronic devices like electric blood pressure machines, doctors can monitor patients from a distance and record the necessary information in an online database. It also reduces the need for human intervention in collecting patient data. Instead, they can later access patient data in an online database, monitor their progress, and suggest courses of action.
For example, Medtronic is an AI-driven device that collects data on patients’ blood sugar levels and stores it in its database that doctors can access via the internet. The device also suggests the dosage of insulin required for diabetic patients as per their blood sugar levels. In addition, such closed-loop systems allow doctors and healthcare experts to invest time in other areas.
Other RPM applications include altering the settings of a patient’s pacemaker or adjusting infusion pump doses for cancer patients. Though RPM is not applicable in every medical field, it improves healthcare for rural and remote patients.
4. Online Health Records
Traditional methods for collecting and maintaining copious amounts of patient records were time-consuming and demanded more space. However, the internet has reshaped how the healthcare sector collects and manages patients’ biographical details, consultation information, diagnoses, prescriptions, and test results.
For example, cardiology PACS is an example of a patient archiving system. This can provide a better patient overview, speed up the diagnosis process, and enhance the patient experience.
Advancement in data science and AI has allowed hospitals and clinical facilities to adopt database management systems that collect and maintain patient data. It’s much safer for healthcare facilities to store sensitive information online and readily accessible by doctors, consultants, and even patients.
Web-based databases for medical records do require security protocols. They might impose a learning curve for experts to use such technologies, but overall are effective.
5. Collaboration Between Doctors
The internet has made communication and collaboration between doctors more convenient. Previously before crucial surgeries and medical procedures, healthcare experts had to gather in a conference room and discuss patient care and courses of action in real-time.
With the help of video and audio-conferencing tools and the internet, consultants and surgeons can connect virtually for instruction and advice. It saves time and ensures quality care for patients as more healthcare experts would be able to join a virtual meeting than an in-person one.
6. Increased Efficiency
Before telehealth, patients had to collect lab reports and meet doctors for consultation in person. Now, medical laboratories can send test results to a patient’s email address or smartphone, saving the time spent driving to the lab to collect reports. Another great example of efficiency is that patients can consult doctors virtually.
In addition, online sharing of treatment plans and medicines speeds up the process. Previously doctors had to print useful information on procedures and primary care and physically deliver it to patients. Now, doctors can easily relay primary care information to patients through mobile apps and websites and avoid time-consuming tasks like printing and distributing pamphlets.
Many doctors and healthcare experts also disseminate primary care information through social media. For instance, clinical psychologists share anxiety and stress management tactics via appealing graphics and content on social media platforms. It’s also a good way of creating awareness of taboo health topics.
7. Health Sensors For Eldercare
If anything, the internet has vastly improved elderly access to healthcare. Elderly patients without a primary caretaker may not be able to attend appointments or take their medicines on time. While it is convenient for some families to afford a full-time nurse for elderly family members, it bears a substantial financial cost.
However, with technologies like health sensors and mobile applications that remind patients when to take medicines, elderly care has improved. Remote patient monitoring systems include health sensors that use the internet and AI to monitor patients. For instance, motion sensors can detect when a patient trips over.
It can also notify first responders or family members regarding the incident. Other health sensors monitor sleeping, walking, eating, breathing, and blood pressure activities.
8. Reduce Costs
Lastly, telehealth and the internet have significantly reduced healthcare costs and expenses. Policymakers and doctors in the healthcare sector are devising ways to reduce costs while improving patient care quality. Telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and healthcare apps proved significant in this effort.
With healthcare apps relaying crucial medical information to patients, doctors can focus on other tasks like performing complex medical procedures. Apps like CareTeam save time by familiarizing new medical staff with the clinic’s protocol. In addition, it saves time for senior medical staff preoccupied with monitoring and operating on patients.
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The internet has restructured the healthcare sector in various ways. Despite the internet’s effectiveness in improving healthcare, policymakers and medical experts are concerned about the magnitude of funding required. Another significant concern is patient records and sensitive data security and safety.
However, telehealth and medical technology are still evolving. Healthcare and business organizations are determined to introduce high-impact technological interventions for improving healthcare.