What Health/Medical Conditions Can Be Treated with Telemedicine?
With the rapid advances made in telemedicine, it would almost be easier to talk about conditions it can't be used to treat. Early adapters, such as hospitals, have even created telehealth subcategories, including telebehavioral health, teleICU, and telestroke. When you add in the number of home healthcare devices and smartphone apps now available, it seems there is very little that cannot be treated, at least in part, remotely.
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Acute Conditions Treatable with Telemedicine
Telemedicine is especially convenient during cold and flu season, or when pollen counts are high and allergies act up. Instead of coming into your office, patients arrange their call or video chat, or use a kiosk if it's a telemedicine provider, and simply present their symptoms the way they would during an in-office visit. The doctor asks the requisite questions and, if a diagnosis can be made, offers medical advice or writes prescriptions as usual.
Common acute conditions treated include:
- Cold and flu
- Ear infections
- Poison ivy
If necessary, you may also send patients to a lab for further diagnostic testing, such as if you suspect strep throat or a urinary tract infection. It is also a popular option for follow-up treatment, including monitoring a patient's progress with a new prescription, following surgery, or after visiting an emergency room or urgent care facility.
Chronic Conditions Treatable with Telemedicine
Telehealth is particularly valuable when treating and monitoring chronic conditions, with many solutions serving to make the patient a more active participant in his or her own healthcare. As patients become more involved and proactive about their health, they tend also to improve their self-care. This combination of effective monitoring by the physician and increased patient involvement help make treating chronic conditions with telehealth solutions highly successful.
Common chronic conditions include:
- Congestive heart failure: Traditional management does little to encourage an active patient role, resulting in high hospitalization and mortality rates. Patient empowerment goes a long way toward improving results. In particular, home monitoring devices gather relevant patient data and transmit this information directly to the doctor. This includes blood pressure, weight, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels. Some telemedicine software also includes more advanced capabilities, including ECG data and electronic stethoscopes. The patient collects these data at home and the device automatically sends the information to the doctor.
- Stroke or cerebral vascular accident: Strokes and other brain injuries are incredibly time sensitive. Many hospitals now have telestroke systems that instantly connect providers with neurology experts. This allows faster, more accurate diagnosis. It also permits remote supervision by the specialist and quicker administration of tissue plasminogen activator.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Treatment of COPD is typically more effective with frequent, regular monitoring, which is challenging with traditional medicine. Telemedicine treatment includes consultations with a pulmonologist, telespirometry, and web-based education programs that help the patient monitor and manage his or her condition.
In addition to these, physicians help patients manage less serious chronic conditions via remote care. These include:
- Arthritis: Doctors advise on pain management, inflammation, when it's time to adjust medications, and referrals when the time comes to bring in a specialist.
- Asthma: Severe asthma patients often require emergency treatment, but not necessarily hospital care. A telemedicine provider can intervene on whether the patient may be safely treated at home or if an ER visit is warranted.
- Chronic skin conditions: Conditions such as acne and psoriasis require ongoing care. Initial treatments get the condition under control. From there, primary care physicians may handle flare-ups or refer the patient to a dermatologist. Video chat makes it easy to view the affected area, and primary care physicians can send photographs and labs directly to the specialist.
Telemedicine at Home
Patients interested in taking a more proactive approach to their health have a variety of telemedicine options available to them. The following items can be used for preventive measures or to monitor chronic conditions.
- Wireless heart monitoring devices: Active heart monitoring reduces hospitalization for at-risk patients thanks to early detection of heart failure. The device does not inundate the physician with unnecessary data, either, as it only sends notifications when readings are outside of normal ranges.
- Blood pressure monitors: These home devices have been available for decades, but they've become smarter, smaller, and more affordable in recent years.
- Glucose monitoring devices: Diabetes patients, as well as those diagnosed with pre-diabetes, easily monitor their glucose levels, with alerts going to the doctor when readings are outside of normal ranges.
- Sleep apnea: These devices include both direct treatment and investigatory items. Sleep apnea devices offer data on sleep patterns, breathing, and body position.
In addition, patients have a variety of items available to help them manage their health, including devices that monitor heart rate, physical activity, and caloric intake. They can track what they eat, how often they move, the medications they take, and more. Then, when they have a doctor appointment (either in-office or remotely), this information is readily available. For example, if a patient comes to you with complaints about weight gain or loss, you can easily review diet and exercise information and offer advice.