A visit to a doctor is expensive, not only in terms of money but more importantly in terms of time. A home visit by a doctor, once common in the past, is very rare today. This concept is now being replaced by telehealth to some extent.
Telehealth is a means of providing consultation to patients using means of telecommunication and information technology. This approach is particularly useful in two settings: in the rural setting where it is difficult to provide super specialty consultation, and in emergency situations, where the life of a patient could be saved due to immediate advice. Data can be transferred to and by a doctor electronically using telehealth. Dr Jay Sanders is one of the pioneers in this field, who advised on the benefits of telemedicine.
AdvertisementTelehealth permits seeing patients in their own surroundings instead of making them visit a hospital or a clinic. The patient can also record some parameters like blood pressure at home, which can be observed live by the health care professionals. This approach not only saves time and money for the patient, it also enables the doctor to observe the patients in their usual surroundings, thus removing any positive or negative effect that a doctor's environment can have on them during examination.
Secondly, the stress that a visit to the doctor can bring about can be eliminated by consulting a doctor via telehealth. The 'white coat effect' is a typical example of this situation. It is a phenomenon where blood pressure measured at a doctor's office is higher than that measured at home, due to anxiety at the doctor's office. This phenomenon may be eliminated through telehealth.
Thus, examining a patient at home via telehealth gives a more realistic picture of the patient's condition.
Though telehealth does not provide direct face-to-face contact with the patient, it does enable the physician to adjust his position with respect to the camera, and emphasize certain points with relation to treatment. This approach is particularly helpful in treating psychiatry patients.
The availability of resources is a major drawback in the implementation of telehealth especially in developing countries.