Explore how telemedicine is shaping the future of patient care and learn how it can enhance your practice.
Online healthcare services vary in their form and purpose, matching the current demands and patients’ needs. Telemedicine can be used to offer diverse types of medical services, making it a fit for many types of practices. Let’s learn about the types of telemedicine and how they are setting higher standards for patient care.
Types of telemedicine
There are three general types of telemedicine services that differ in their purpose yet are all based on remote healthcare provision using telehealth platforms:
- online interactive telemedicine
- store-and-forward telemedicine
Each type has its range of applications and benefits specific healthcare fields.
Online interactive telemedicine
This type of telemedicine has one distinctive feature: it’s based on real-time communication. Interactive telemedicine is strongly associated with psychology, therapy, and primary care. Healthcare providers widely use interactive telemedicine when they have to consult or oversee patients that can’t visit their office in person or when service is provided solely in an online format via medical practice software.
According to a McKinsey survey, 40% of psychology sessions and 17% of routine primary care visits were held online in 2021.
In the US, online interactive telemedicine is currently reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid in the following fields:
- Substance disorder treatment
It is also widely used in pharmacy and nursing practices for managing prescriptions and overseeing patients.
Online interactive telemedicine takes patient care to the next level, giving both healthcare providers and their patients such advantages as:
- easy scheduling and reduced waiting times
- access to healthcare for those living in rural areas
- better patient engagement
Among the possible challenges of interactive online telemedicine, healthcare professionals name security risks related to protected health information, licensing issues, and the risk of making an incorrect diagnosis. The other problem many healthcare providers face when they decide to integrate online telemedicine into their practice is choosing medical practice software that is HIPAA-compliant and reliable. There are specific requirements for a telemedicine platform, including:
- data encryption for data in storage and in transit
- the ability to limit access to protected health information only to authorized parties
- secure authentication practices (two-factor authentication and automatic logout)
- BAA agreements specifying each party’s responsibility for PHI security
In other words, healthcare providers can’t use a free Zoom account or Google Meet to provide telemedicine consultations. Luckily, there is versatile specialized medical practice software on the market providing high-quality video communication functionality.
Telehealth practice management software such as ExpertBox protects all kinds of data stored or transmitted between you and your patients, offering secure patient management, patient notes, HIPAA-compliant billing, and other powerful features to protect you and your patients from data leaks.
Store-and-forward telemedicine services
On some occasions, it’s not possible for a healthcare provider to get the patient to a location where the required specialist can assist them. In this case, store-and-forward telemedicine services come in handy, allowing doctors to store and send MRI scans, X-rays, blood test results, and other sensitive information to a specialist for proper diagnosis. This type of telemedicine is also called asynchronous because it doesn’t require live communication when both parties are present at the same time.
Store-and-forward telemedicine platforms concentrate on storing and forwarding medical records when data sharing benefits the patient and the patient gives their prior consent. This type of telemedicine empowers both patients and healthcare providers, making it possible to:
- reduce transport expenses
- improve the accuracy of diagnoses
- provide better evidence-based care
Asynchronous telemedicine is widely applied in radiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, endocrinology, and pathology.
Telemonitoring is the last yet not the least important type of telemedicine that has proven its effectiveness by improving patient outcomes, especially in cases when patients have chronic diseases and need regular vitals monitoring. A study of how non-invasive telemonitoring impacts patient outcomes by Centro Hospitalar University in Lisbon showed a tendency of reduced hospitalizations (by 24%) and mortality (by 26%) among patients that had a risk of heart failure and used telemonitoring.
Benefits of telemonitoring include:
- the ability to access up-to-date, accurate health data remotely that can be used to change prescriptions or treatment plans
- easier self-management for patients that need to regularly control their vitals
- improved patient outcomes
- cost savings
Healthcare fields where telemonitoring is effectively applied are:
- reproductive endocrinology
- general primary care
Combined with online interactive telemedicine, telemonitoring reduces the need for in-person visits, effectively combating the risk of misdiagnosis and helping patients that can’t visit a healthcare provider access quality healthcare services remotely.
All three types of telemedicine described above help healthcare specialists implement the best telemedicine practices to assist patients with timely care that is no less effective than care provided in person. See how telemedicine can help you in your practice.