The growth of technology has been instrumental in the rise of Telemedicine. Primarily used to connect remotely located patients with physicians, telemedicine has been uber-successful in providing better medical care and reducing operational costs during the pandemic.
Considering the unique constraints imposed by COVID, telemedicine gained significant importance thanks to ground realities like social distancing and the enormous pressure on the existing healthcare system. Estimated at around $41.63 billion in 2019, the global market for telemedicine is projected to reach $185.66 billion by the year 2026.
Evolving with the ongoing adoption of the latest industry trends, advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) are driving the adoption of telemedicine.
Which are some of the major healthcare areas that digital technologies can impact through telemedicine? Let us delve into that next.
7 Major Application Areas of Telemedicine
This is a subset of dermatology, referring to the use of telecommunication systems to facilitate interactions between a specialized dermatologist and the patient. Teledermatology applications span multiple areas including consultation, diagnosis, remedy, and even education. Skin conditions such as Crural ulcers that require repeat visits to the dermatologist can now be managed more efficiently through teledermatology.
Among its recent use cases, teledermatological models have been used in Australia to counter the shortage of experienced dermatologists and urban-rural disparity in skincare. This is crucial in locations that have always been sensitive to skin ailments due to a greater risk of skin cancer.
This is another application area of telemedicine where telecommunication devices are deployed to transit radiology scans or images from one place to another. Radiological images can include X-rays in digitized format, CT and MRI scans, and ultrasound images.
Through teleradiology services, radiologists can provide patient care without being physically present in the same area as the patient. Historically, teleradiology has been used in medical emergencies – until the current evolution of software used only for transmitting radiology images.
Among its benefits, teleradiology has improved the scope of radiology-related services, reduced the waiting time and costs, and has been a lifesaver in medical emergencies. For instance, using teleradiology, the Columbia Asia Radiology Group was able to provide personalized patient care through its clinic in Uganda.
Globally, more patients are getting infected with chronic kidney diseases (or CKD) and require immediate medical intervention in a primary clinic. However, due to the increasing shortage of nephrologists, CKD diagnosis and treatment are often delayed or simply not available.
Like other applications of telemedicine, telenephrology has emerged as a technology-enabled model of treating kidney patients. Using mobile apps, family physicians can now upload CKD-related patient information and share them with a remote nephrologist.
With the increasing number of CKD patients in the U.S, Prine Health is one healthcare provider that has teamed up with nephrologists all around the U.S and is providing services through an intelligent IT setup.
Like the other applications of telemedicine, teleneurology makes use of telecommunication techniques like email and video conferencing to connect neurological experts with their patients. Multispecialty hospitals are using teleneurology to connect with neurologists specialized in various fields including epilepsy, cognitive disorders, multiple sclerosis, and more.
The use of teleneurology has also been notable for its impact on stroke patients, offering benefits like quicker treatment and shorter hospital stays. With its nationwide reach, the U.S-based Massachusetts General Hospital has been the pioneer in teleneurology care with its telehealth services starting way back in 1967.
Telepsychiatry is simply the application of telemedicine in the specialized field of psychiatric treatment. Using Internet-enabled telepsychiatry, psychiatrists can now interact with remote patients using video conferencing facilities.
Telepsychiatry can include a range of services including individual or family therapy, psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, and group therapy. As a recognized form of treatment, telepsychiatry has been effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.
Consider the successful case study of elderly American women suffering from schizophrenia, to whom psychiatric care was provided using hybrid telepsychiatry mode.
Telepathology is a form of telemedicine where remote pathology is enabled through electronic communications. Using telepathology, a pathology specialist can analyze digital pathology images and make a diagnosis. Among the recent innovations, mobile phone-based telepathology is becoming more common due to the growth of telepathology apps and high-resolution mobile cameras.
Apart from accurate diagnosis, telepathology is also being used for advanced research and educational purposes. Some of the main categories of telepathology include the use of static images, virtual slides, real-time images, and whole slide imaging.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, telepathology has gained more importance with more pathologists working from their homes and the need for faster diagnosis and treatment.
As with the other applications of telemedicine, telepharmacy is a technology-enabled service that is provided when pharmacists are not physically available to deliver quality care. Telepharmacy is an umbrella term for various types of patient care including inpatient telepharmacy, remote dispensing, and remote counseling.
Some of the services offered under telepharmacy include patient counseling, authorization of prescription drugs, and drug monitoring. Telepharmacy is also extending the roles of traditional pharmacists working in hospitals, as in this industry case study
In the post-COVID era, digital healthcare enabled by technology is now the norm in delivering quality patient care. Telemedicine is one such area that is helping care providers overcome the shortage of in-situ medical professionals in various specializations including dermatology, radiology, and neurology.
Mandar Gadre | Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing
Mandar Gadre serves as Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing for GS Lab. Mandar holds B.Tech from IIT Bombay, and a Ph.D. in engineering from Arizona State University, USA. He brings deep expertise and experience in crafting industrial solutions, leading technology teams, while contributing technically to sensor technology, hardware and control solutions, and data analytics. Mandar has helped numerous organizations implement IIoT and delivered results that have shaped new business models for those organizations.