Telemedicine and the Technologies Behind It
16 Nov 2022
What would medicine look like without its technologies? Likely, healthcare would still only happen through our traditional and well-known channels of communication, namely - live, and face-to-face. However, the pandemic in the past years has given impetus to a new, faster, and more efficient way of health called telemedicine. Below, we will outline the technologies on which its functioning and development are based, as well as the distinct benefits of its implementation in individual practices, clinics, and hospitals.
The Physical (Hardware) Devices in Telemedicine
Here are the main devices that are needed for telemedicine needs:
1. Computer Devices and Peripherals – At the dawn of the 21st century, we can safely say that in developed societies there is hardly a person who does not own at least one computing device. Thus, almost everyone can use telemedicine with the help of peripheral devices such as a video camera, headphones, keyboard, mouse, etc.
2. Mobile Devices – the rapid development of mobile technologies in recent years has made smartphones and tablets an indispensable part of people’s daily lives. These days, almost everyone has access to these types of devices as they are powerful miniature computers that we can fit in our pockets. In the context of telemedicine, these devices are irreplaceable, as they unlock extraordinary possibilities for data collection and processing, as well as communication unrestricted by geographical location.
3. Remote Patient Monitoring Devices (RPMD) – here we mean all “smart” and “connected” (usually via Bluetooth) devices for measuring and monitoring medical parameters, such as diabetes insulin pumps, blood pressure cuffs, digital stethoscopes, VED meters, thermometers, etc.
The most popular in this regard are smartwatches, which usually have an optical device for measuring heart rate and an accelerometer (for measuring steps).
Small but impossible to replace, these additional medical devices help link the patient’s vital readings with their visual representation in a software product and their connection to a doctor who can, in turn, make adequate health recommendations. It is the interrelationship between smart technologies, doctor, and patient that determines telemedicine – in contrast to traditional medicine, which is associated with long waits in front of doctor’s offices, explicit planning of follow-up visits, and difficult (quick) communication in an emergency.
4. Internet Connection – cable Internet, Wi-Fi devices, portable Internet dongles, and other technological Internet solutions are necessary for the online connection between patient and doctor. Fortunately, nowadays we can connect to the Internet almost everywhere, which makes it as easy as possible to choose a channel for communication with a medical specialist. It is important that the connection is encrypted and with a high level of security to avoid data leakage.
Larger clinics and hospitals, on the other hand, must have a reliable Internet provider, a well-established network, and of course a backup support system in case of an accident or system breach. This requires good planning to be in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Software Solutions for Implementing Telemedicine
The most important anchor points that any software solution must have in order to qualify as a telemedicine platform are the following:
1. Cloud Services – Any telemedicine system must be reliable, fast, and accessible from different parts of the world. In order to ensure these parameters, modern software solutions use so-called cloud services. They guarantee the operation of the system and the storage of data in it, through software distribution of information on multiple servers, including in different locations. This minimizes the risk of information loss in the event of technical problems with physical machines and ensures better connectivity from different locations.
2. Video Connection Platform – virtual consultations with video connection actually help carry out routine medical examinations. The quality of visual connectivity between patients and specialists determines the timely diagnosis and brings additional benefits and information. For example - the doctor seeing the conditions in which the patient lives could also gain a better idea of what would cause a given disease and give an adequate assumption for a diagnosis.
3. Remote Patient Assessment and Monitoring Software – the core of the various telemedicine solutions lies in precisely what medical questions they will answer and how they would help patients. Remote symptom tracking, medication tracking, and medical record storage help make telemedicine a reality. The digitization of a wide range of activities, which otherwise remain unrecorded or unspoken to the doctor, often turns out to be a key factor in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment process.
4. Information Storage and Sharing Software – helps to establish a secure connection between different users of the platform, thus the information remains secure. Even if it is shared with third parties, medical confidentiality is maintained in order to provide the most adequate care for a given patient. Telemedicine is very effective in cases where it is necessary to share confidential information with specialists outside the medical facility. Through this technology, data arrives instantaneously through a secured electronic channel to be read.
The benefits of technological solutions development for telemedicine are undoubtedly many, but how do they affect the improvement of healthcare? In addition to the indisputable increase in the scope of medical practices through their digitalization, the communication between specialists and patient is also significantly improved. Consultation appointment time, their actual happening, and even travel costs to the office are reduced to an absolute minimum thanks to telemedicine software solutions.
Medrec:M is a digital health platform that allows patients and doctors from anywhere in the world to conduct virtual examinations and exchange key medical information related to the patient’s health. Check it out here.