Information Technology, through the prudent use of computers, related softwares, and telecommunications systems comprising of compatible telephone lines, fibre-optic cables and satellite link-ups, are used to deliver quality health care to the patient at his place of residence. In a broad-sense that is what telemedicine is all about.
Telemedicine would help in providing complete and accurate diagnostic opinion by the best available specialist residing physically anywhere who could then suggest an effective management plan for the patient. Geography would no longer be an encumbrance to providing quality health care and management.
The technology would definitely help in the research and development of better management protocols, efficient and detailed epidemiological studies, statistical analysis, and through well designed data warehousing techniques the eventual building of a health data mart from where data could be mined.
General efficiencies of the health care system can be created by the use of this technology with successful computerisation yielding many tangible benefits to the health care management. Relevant information diffusion is accelerated so that the overall care provided is improved. Medical record keeping and retrieval becomes easy and "smart" thereby improving the overall productivity of delivery of health care. Essentially, telemedicine is an adjunct to medical informatics enhancing its capabilities.
Telemedicine would also help in transforming the health care industry into an integrated system as a whole supporting the continuum of health care. Remote access to archived electronic scans and patient as well as other relevant records, and the provision of health care information (pre-operative, antenatal care, various support groups, etc.) direct to patient's home would also be made possible through this technology.
Emergent technology (ET) in the field of Information Systems (IS) will further enhance the quality, quantity and efficiency of telemedicine. It is rather the acceptance of the technology by the health care professionals and the administrators that happens the problem that needs very careful handling.
Telemedicine allows the active participation of the family in the management and care process of the patient concerned. It would also cause increased patronage by the remote and rural centres allowing the organisations possessing telemedicine technology to export their various skills to them. This one technology truly can create an effective global health village, albeit in "virtual reality", and make health for all a real possibility.
The various downsides are undoubtedly the associated price tag (though this is expected to dramatically drop as more and more customers and solution providers take interest into the matter and there are plenty of telemedicine-related solutions available literally "off-the-shelf") and the risks of sensitive data security associated with it. A relatively high capital investment is required, at least in the initial stages. Coupled with this is the additional cost due to the requirement of constant presence at the patient's side of at least one qualified health care personnel to actually administer care.
Hopefully with increased interest in this technology and all that it can do for the health care industry, the adverse ground conditions that exist today, with all its doubting Thomas' and essentially armchair critics, would alter favourably to enable its proper implementation without hindrances.
Expectations are that once telemedicine as a technology does indeed become a definite means of providing the best of the available health care anywhere anytime, it would soon enough be able to demonstrate to the health care industry and its customers its usefulness.
Needless to say, telemedicine is the future of medical sciences. [Top]
Please do note
that the opinions expressed herein are my own, which were mostly formulated based
on my research on the subject during 1997-98 as well as on subsequent study on the
subject. Most are theories, some are postulates and the rest are based on actual
experience and materials from various sources [ref. bibliography]. Needless to say, I
owe a big debt to the various authors on the subject for the technical aspects. The
reader may choose to quote the material contained herein freely. An attribute to the
source would be much appreciated.
© Dr. S. B. Bhattacharyya
Copyright: Sudisa - 1997 - 2012. Last Updated: