Telehealth  A New Trend in Healthcare
Photo: Sean MacEntree: http://bit.ly/1PzAwD6 /CC

Telehealth A New Trend in Healthcare

The Future of Medicine?
 
Telehealth is an emerging trend in healthcare in developed nations around the world. It can be defined as:

“The delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies” (Wikipedia)

There are 3 main types of telehealth:

1) Real Time Telehealth – examples of this include GPs conducting routine appointments via Skype

2) Remote Patient Monitoring – this is when patients’ keep small devices in their homes to monitor such metrics such as blood pressure or blood glucose, instead of these readings being taken in hospital. The conditions that can be monitored at home by Remote Patient Monitoring are quite varied – Lung disease, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension can all be monitored and controlled by this method.

3) Store and Forward Practices – This is probably the oldest aspect of telehealth in existence. The basic idea is the sharing and comparing of patient medical data by medical professionals for ease of use, and speedy medical treatment.

An example of this type of telehealth  is a doctor emailing a patient x-ray or scan to a GP to inform them and to make the treatment process quicker and easier.


A Real Life Example

To give an example of how telehealth can work, see an example given recently in the Telegraph:

The article told the story of 62-year-old Eddie Beardsmore who suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which means his lung function is severely impaired.

Every morning, Eddie takes a variety of readings on his machine at his home, such as his pulse, oxygen levels and blood pressure, which are then sent off to a nurse a few miles away.

The whole process takes only a few minutes.

The Telegraph suggests that “monitoring patients in their home with electronic equipment may help clinicians spot early signs of worsening health and prevent serious problems developing.”

Eddie Beardsmore says his little black box has “transformed his life” and has saved countless hospital trips when his oxygen levels have been low. When his levels are low, he can take medication or arrange to see a nurse, which is easier for him, and cheaper for the health services.  

With the “little black box”, Eddie has gained control over his condition, and has saved the NHS much in hospital and ambulance costs.

However the scheme is still quite new in Eddie’s area, and is still in just the trial phase. Despite this, early signs are good, certainly in Eddie’s case.  


Telehealth Under Fire?

Despite its obvious uses and advantages, many GP’s are in the UK are, according to a recent survey conducted by private health insurer Aviva, sceptical about telehealth. Aviva describes in the survey report how many GP’s “need greater convincing about the benefits of telehealth”.


Telehealth and PMI

Private Healthcare is at the cutting edge of telehealth technology. When you buy Private Medical Insurance policies through us, you will have access, through insurers such as Aviva and Vitality, to leading telehealth technology.

For example, these two insurers are among the first to pioneer a video GP service, where you can arrange an appointment over the internet with a private GP, at a time to suit you.

Patients use an app on their phone to access a video call with a private GP.

Appointments can often be made within 48 hours, and include Saturday. Private GP’s can authorise most onward referrals, and private video/Skype GP appointments are available as part of core cover, and not as an add-on. This can make your policy great value.

These remote GP appointments are not currently available on the NHS – they are private only.

Think how much time and hassle you could save from seeing a GP at home or at work, at a time to suit you. This feature could make the policy price worth paying all on its own…