In the 1970s, a group of French doctors and journalists decided that helping victims of natural disasters was more important than concerns about political or religious boundaries. We know them today as Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). They made human life their top priority and have inspired the world ever since. Thanks to videoconferencing, beaming medical expertise over borders of time and space is very much a reality. The result has been a great reduction in the costly transfer of patients between homes and hospitals. Telemedicine doctors are not merely “on call,” only able to recommend hospital admission in the event of an emergency. Instead they are able to actively take part in a patient’s diagnosis and care without even being in the same room. Yet, as described in our earlier post Top Five Benefits of Telemedicine, telemedicine doctors are no different than any other doctor. They do rounds at hospitals, hold hours at clinics and have their own private practices.
In the American healthcare system, the word ‘inpatient’ is an alarmingly expensive one. The more likely the outcome is to include that word, the more a provider has reason to be concerned. If you manage a nursing home or elder care facility, Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations (PAH) are to be avoided for a number of very important reasons. Not only are they expensive but they expose residents to further health risks, potentially triggering a snowball effect. Overall, the physical and emotional toll on patients and their families is distressing and very much not what the mission of elder care facilities is all about.
So what is videoconferencing all about? Just break the word down. The “video” simply means that a doctor will be able to see the problem without being there. Do you really want to explain a resident’s costly trip to the ER as a “false alarm”? A rash should not even be referred to as a “potentially” avoidable hospitalization, not with the aid of telemedicine. Diagnosis and prescription follow visual confirmation of the problem. The patient doesn’t have to leave the bed. Furthermore, ‘conferencing’ means that a telemedicine doctor can instantly share this information with a primary care physician and family members.
Two-way videoconferencing and a high-resolution camera do not replace existing staff. If anything, think of it as adding a staff member, one that works the after-hours shift. Of course, telemedicine service provides far more on a whole. Again, it is just that by removing restrictions and having the full capability of a medical doctor at their disposal, even a skeletal staff will feel more confident and reassured.
Videoconferencing is, without a doubt, the aspect of telemedicine that has revolutionized medicine and is continuing to do so. Sure, high-definition video is something to behold but telemedicine is here to stay because doctors are able to network like never before. A doctor in an operating room can already talk back and forth with another doctor miles away at a university. No specialist is out of reach. A nursing home at the top of its game can rest assured that once management goes home at the end of a day, telemedicine has its back.