How Virtual Healthcare is Transforming Specialty Care
What is Virtual Healthcare?
Virtual healthcare uses technology, such as audio and video calling, mobile apps, text messaging, and other telecommunications to deliver healthcare to patients remotely. These means of communication enable healthcare services but these are just an extension of virtual healthcare’s umbrella term. Virtual healthcare, by definition, is the actual provision of healthcare to remote patients through technology.
Virtual healthcare is crucial when it comes to providing and serving more and more people with adequate healthcare. It is also closely connected to addressing the lack of resources and staff in healthcare organizations. It can also help provide patients with second opinions, consultations, chronic condition management and remote monitoring of certain conditions.
The future of virtual healthcare is synonymous with the future of healthcare in general. The COVID-19 pandemic has created and exposed the many hindrances which prevented people’s access to quality healthcare. Virtual healthcare, however, is hailed as the solution to many of these. This is made possible because virtual healthcare allows doctors to remotely observe and engage with a patient. This event has led to a growing demand to avoid the burden of waiting and traveling to-and-from healthcare clinics and doctor’s offices. In rural areas, which do not tend to attract doctors and healthcare professionals, virtual healthcare is a blessing for the present and future. It reduces the need and cost of commuting long distances and makes obtaining quality healthcare a possible dream.
Specialty Care through Virtual Healthcare
Specialty care means advanced medical care and treatment of specific health conditions provided by a specialist, usually alongside a primary healthcare professional. Specialists play a critical role in every patient’s life as they offer advanced care. But specialty care is riddled with many challenges. A significant challenge can be the lack of specialists in rural or low-income areas.
Specialists are usually found more easily in cities, which often comes at a price for rural patients who have higher rates of diseases that require specialty care, such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes. They have to make difficult decisions; either skip specialty care or wait months for appointments miles away. Specialists try to rectify these issues by visiting different clinics and hospitals on different days, which widens their availability but reduces the patient pool.
The good news is that virtual health care is now breaking many of the barriers in specialty care. Virtual healthcare allows patients to connect to remote specialists, especially for rural patients or children in hospitals without pediatric specialists. Specialists can also give real-time virtual consultations. The immediacy of virtual health can save stroke or heart attack patients by connecting paramedics with cardiologists. Specialists can provide care across vast areas without having to drive to multiple clinics. Providers can reschedule canceled appointments quickly instead of waiting for the next time the specialist is available in that area.
Virtual health also enables specialty care through interoperable medical devices like digital stethoscopes, exam cameras, ultrasounds, etc. These allow specialists to bridge the gap in evidence collection and be as thorough as they would in a physical visit. Today’s virtual healthcare can provide the real-time data specialists need for productive consultations.
Types of Virtual Healthcare
Telemedicine allows patients to have their doctor’s appointments anytime, anywhere using any two-way real-time communication method, such as video-chatting. Healthcare professionals can do medical history assessments, essential visual examinations, psychiatric evaluations, and regular consultations via real-time telemedicine.
Remote Patient Monitoring:
This method of virtual care allows healthcare providers to monitor a patient’s health from afar. RPM cuts down on the time patients need to spend under observation at hospitals. This method is effective for chronic diseases and is done via technology that allows patients to monitor their conditions and share their health data with professionals.
Store-and-forward virtual health makes patients’ medical records accessible across long distances. Patients can transmit medical data such as test and exam results remotely with no appointment needed to be made. Radiology, dermatology, blood work testing, and many other specialized medical fields rely on this form of telemedicine daily.
Specialists and Primary Caregivers Consultations:
This can help bridge the communication gaps between all your healthcare providers. Your primary physician can collaborate productively and have greater access to a range of specialists remotely through video conferencing. The ability to share patient information wholly and quickly improves the overall level of assistance that specialists can provide.
There are many different ways to distribute medical data used by medical professionals. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities use special networks to share data. These can be connected over the Internet or use specific data lines. Several such networks are being used in the US today, linking thousands of separate healthcare facilities.
Web-based services, such as patient portals allow providers to share essential information and answer questions. Professionals can also gather data from medical equipment in the home, such as pacemakers, fetal heart monitors, and pulmonary systems. Patients can use patient portals to recommend health-focused mobile apps or educational materials, such as articles and videos.
Tele-pharmacy provides pharmaceutical advice to patients when direct contact with a pharmacist is not possible. This type of virtual health care allows medications to be monitored and patients can be offered advice over the phone. Depending on regulations, pharmacists may give refill authorization to allow patients to receive regular medications when required.
Tele-rehabilitation utilizes technology to communicate and perform clinical assessment and therapy for rehabilitation patients. This example of virtual healthcare usually has a vital visual element with video conferences and webcams commonly used to communicate symptoms and clinical progress.