Telemedicine is more relevant today than ever before. Patients with minor issues like a broken finger or back pain may find it a burden to go to the doctor’s office. Patients with more severe conditions like a cough or the flu may want to stay at home to avoid infecting others. With telemedicine available to all, it’s the best solution in many cases.
Just like at any hospital or doctor’s office, it’s essential to keep track of files. When patients partake in video calls with their physicians, the audio should be recorded, then transcribed into physical and digital files for reference and future use.
Did you know some medical offices prefer to do pure telehealth instead of having a physical office? High office rental rates and maintenance costs can be a turnoff for some medical practices. The point is, telemedicine is changing the medical industry, and transcription plays a key role.
In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look into what telemedicine is and how telehealth telemedicine transcription fits in to make telehealth more efficient.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the use of technology (camera, microphone, and a secure internet connection) that allows patients to get healthcare from the privacy of their own homes, or anywhere private for that matter. Patients can live chat through a video communication platform and explain their symptoms and show the physician any visual signs.
Here are some examples of where a telemedicine appointment can replace a visit to the doctor’s office:
- Diagnosis of common health problems, including a cold, a headache, a cough, back pain, or digestive troubles.
- Advice on home treatments for mild to moderate medical issues.
- Post-treatment check-ins and follow-up care advice.
- Emergencies when traditional doctor’s offices are closed (night, weekends, holidays).
- Inability to leave the house due to too much sickness or poor weather conditions.
It’s important to note that telemedicine isn’t available for every situation. If the patient needs surgery, an injection, or anything else that another person has to do, a traditional office is your best option. However, there are many instances where people get sick or hurt and end up at the doctor’s office when it’s completely unnecessary, and that’s where telehealth can help.
How Is Telemedicine Conducted?
Can you conduct telemedicine on ANY video communication platform? The answer is no. While some practices do their telemedicine calls through simple video communications like Zoom, Skype, etc., most countries require a secure HIPAA compliant video conference tool.
If you’ve heard the recent news on the video communication platform, Zoom, you know you can’t trust just any company with handling your privacy.
When sharing anything over the internet, cybersecurity is a considerable risk, and physicians need to make educated decisions that consider the Protected Health Information (PHI) of their patients. Luckily, many video communication platforms know this and are there to serve telemedicine doctor visits. They follow all the HIPAA compliance regulations to keep your data safe.
Some telemedicine is practiced without any equipment other than a device with a camera. While some telemedicine is conducted with portable telemedicine kits that include a computer, medical devices like ECGs, and vital sign monitors. High-resolution digital cameras are also made available for capturing detailed images.
History of Telemedicine
When did telemedicine start? In-home care has always been in high demand. Besides, medical issues like a broken finger or strep throat aren’t planned ahead of time. Modern patients expect 24/7 access to medical advice, and physicians today can use telemedicine to monetize remote assistance. While the platforms used to conduct telemedicine are relatively new, telemedicine itself has been around since the first half of the 20th century.
When Telemedicine Was Just a Dream
In the early 1900s, radio revolutionized the way we communicate. Radio quickly became useful in entertainment, national defense, and straight up plain old normal communication. It wasn’t long before the consideration of how doctors could use radio for their practices.
A radio news magazine from 1924 features an image of a doctor helping a patient via video call. The headline, “The Radio Doctor-Maybe!” is an indication that telemedicine was soon to emerge. Only 90 years later, the dream of telemedicine would become a reality.
The First Stages of Telemedicine
So, when did telemedicine start? The 1940s were the earliest signs of telemedicine when radiology images were sent 24 miles between two towns via a telephone line. In the 1950s, a Canadian doctor built on this technology and constructed a teleradiology system that was used in Montreal and the surrounding area. As teleradiology became more widespread, so did motion pictures. With the arrival of video technology, came serious plans for telemedicine.
The first ones who used telemedicine were clinicians at the University of Nebraska. In 1959, the university established a two-way television setup to transmit medical information across campus. 5 years later, a state hospital was linked to perform video consultations.
The image above illustrates a telemedicine consultation from the patient’s perspective. The patient at a dialysis center is seeing a distant specialist through a monitor.
On the other side, the physician’s desk usually looked something like this:
The physician’s workstation is set up with a personal computer (pan-tilt-zoom), robotic video camera (mounted above the computer monitor), large video display monitor, microphone, speakers, an electronic COder/DECoder device, and software for a variety of purposes including control of some peripheral devices at the remote site.
Since then, telemedicine has grown in popularity. With the evolution of technology, diagnostics and patient care has become more effective.
Telemedicine is changing the healthcare industry. Patients are considering it more, especially when it means they get to stay home and avoid possible infections. Healthcare workers see the benefits as well: more hospital space, happier patients, and more profitable practices. As a result, telehealth is becoming more popular, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will leave a mark on the world even after it passes.
Don’t just take our word for it! Data show that telemedicine has been on the rise for a long time. Here are some of the 12 most important telemedicine statistics.
- More than half of the hospitals in the US have a telemedicine program.
- 84% of healthcare organizations feel it’s very important (52%) or essential (32%) to their organizations.
- The global telemedicine technologies market (hardware, services, and software) was valued at $17.8 billion in 2014. It was predicted to grow at an annual growth of 18.4% between 2014 and 2020.
- In 2015, there were about 800,000 online consultations in the US.
- The number of telemedicine patients spiked from less than 350,000 in 2013 to 7 million in 2018.
- About 74% of patients in the US would use telemedicine.
- Most patients are comfortable having their health records securely on the cloud.
- About 76% of patients care more about easy access to healthcare than seeing their physician in person.
- Only 16% of patients prefer to go to the emergency room over telemedicine for a minor injury.
- About 67% of patients said using telemedicine somewhat or significantly increased their satisfaction with medical care.
- When telemedicine services were used by the Veterans Health Administration post-cardiac arrest program, hospital readmissions decreased by 51% for heart failure and 44% for other illnesses.
- US employers could save up to $6 billion per year by using telemedicine.
Note that these statistics are before COVID-19. Telehealth is expected to have increased a lot during the pandemic and continue to grow post-pandemic.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine benefits two groups: the providers and the patients.
From a provider’s point of view, telemedicine allows health care systems, skilled nursing facilities, and physician practices to provide care more effectively.
The technology that comes with telemedicine, including electronic medical records, medical streaming devices, and AI diagnoses can help providers in diagnosis and treatment.
By using telemedicine, providers also see increased revenues. Telemedicine allows physicians to see more patients at once, without the need to hire more staff or increase patient rooms/office space.
From the patient’s point of view, the benefits are apparent. First of all, there’s no need to leave the house. This saves time, gas money, and the risk of infecting others or getting infected themselves. Seniors who have mobility issues and prefer to stay home can now do so without worrying about missing an appointment. Hard workers can schedule appointments out of work hours from their homes. Parents who struggle to find child care can stay home with their children using any number of telemedicine solutions.
Medical Specialties that Use Telemedicine already
Although telemedicine has benefited mostly the primary care industry, it has also become a massive benefit to various other medical specialties.
Did you know 1 in 5 adults in the US struggle with mental health? That’s why it’s so important for mental health practices to have a broad reach. Telemedicine allows patients to get care from anywhere, including rural areas. On the other hand, the organization benefits from telemedicine because there are fewer cancellations and no-shows, more effective patient care, more profitability, and more time for other administrative duties.
Thanks to telemedicine, parents can get advice about their sick children without making a trip to the hospital. A pediatrician can use a secure HIPAA messenger to share texts, images, and videos to make a diagnosis to treat the child. Care instructions can be sent through secure PDFs.
Radiologists specialize in medical imaging techniques to diagnose and treat different medical issues. One of their core responsibilities includes working with other health care practitioners, which can be very time-consuming. Radiologists receive extremely high quality images through their PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) and give feedback and diagnosis from wherever they’re situated anywhere in the world.
Image technology can make it easy to distinguish a rash, eczema, psoriasis, and more. Going to the dermatologist isn’t always necessary, especially when the condition can be treated with over-the-counter medicine and a good camera and telemedicine set up.
The Future of Telemedicine
As of now, telemedicine is a thriving industry that’s getting more recognized and growing every day.
So, what does the future of telemedicine look like in 5, 10, or 15 years from now?
- Clinics will be able to work 100% remotely with physicians located all over the country.
- International medical collaborations will take place for access to better technology not currently offered in the US and vice versa.
- Less stress for the patients due to no waiting/traveling. Less stress for physicians due to the capacity to treat more patients in less time.
- Less spread of viruses among hospital patients, visitors, and staff.
While not everything can be done through telemedicine, and traditional healthcare organizations will always exist, telehealth is looking at a very bright future.
How Transcription Services Benefit Telemedicine
The job role of a healthcare provider is to oversee and treat patients. Did you know most healthcare providers spend hours per week transcribing and typing their patient’s medical files? As they are busy enough, outsourcing transcription work to a freelancer or, more appropriately, a transcription company can benefit healthcare providers immensely. Here are a few top benefits:
The Ability to be More Attentive to Patients
Some health care providers are so swamped with typing and transcription and other desk work they don’t have time to focus on their patients. They may hurry to wrap up patient appointments because they know how much data entry they have left to do. A telehealth telemedicine transcription service can take care of all the files that need to be transcribed so physicians can focus on what’s most important.
A Quick Turnaround on Telehealth Telemedicine Transcription Work
The faster the transcribed patient files become available, the better. Patients receiving telemedicine care expect quick responses, and doctors can save time and work more efficiently. A reliable medical transcription company can guarantee fast turnaround times and even same-day deliveries.
Increased Long-Term Profitability
As most telehealth telemedicine practices are less established than traditional offices, they may not bring in enough patients to keep the finances rolling to see a profitable profit margin in the beginning. Transcription services can help reduce initial costs. The telemedicine practice won’t need to hire additional staff or pay staff extra hours to get transcription work done. The affordability of a telehealth telemedicine transcription service will save telemedicine practices money and give them a better chance of getting their feet off the ground.
Only the Highest Quality Transcription
Physicians are tired, especially after a long day of patient appointments. They might not be focused enough to provide transcription of quality they would normally be able to do. However, a transcription service focuses solely on the outcome of a file. An American transcription service will decipher any unclear words, slang, and of course, the most complex medical language using the best equipment ever. Also, flag anything they aren’t sure of or is a discrepancy.
How Medical Transcription Services Merge With Telemedicine
Telehealth telemedicine transcription services and telemedicine go hand in hand. Just like a traditional hospital or doctor’s office, transcription of documents is required daily for reports and record-keeping. As healthcare workers are busy as it is, transcription services alleviate the stress by taking over your transcription work.
Here are some ways a telemedicine transcription service merges with telemedicine practices.
HIPAA Compliance and Security
Any company that a healthcare organization associates with must be HIPAA compliant. It is no different for outsourcing transcription work. Medical transcription services ensure patient privacy and protection by being HIPAA compliant. It’s vital that patient information does not get into the wrong hands or becomes an easy hack.
Check out our comprehensive HIPAA guide here.
Health care organizations, vendors, policymakers, and providers can all agree on the many grey areas within telemedicine. One particular area requiring precise clarity is the legalities surrounding patient data confidentiality. HIPAA was created to keep everyone on the same page.
However, HIPAA does not yet apply to telemedicine. That’s why it’s crucial for the health care organization to partner with a HIPAA compliant company when outsourcing any kind of work, including transcription. At Ditto Transcripts, we ensure all digital information received is safeguarded through following all HIPAA rules and policies.
Consistent Record Keeping
Ditto Transcripts will use the same file format as your healthcare organization. This means files are easily transferable, opened on the same devices, and able to store digitally in an organized manner. Physicians can save and find all electronic data in the same place without hassle.
Easy Integration With EMRs and EHRs
Many health care organizations have adopted electronic health record (EHR) systems (Aka electronic medical records-EMRs) to replace their old paper charts. EHRs are more natural to organize, pull up, and they don’t take up physical space. They also can’t be destroyed by a natural disaster like flood or fire.
They are shareable, transmittable, can be saved, duplicated, uploaded, etc. They are also uniquely reliable when a team of physicians all need access to the same patient’s data at the same time.
Audio recordings need to be transcribed to make an EHR. No matter how rough the recording is (fuzzy words, slang, or background noise), a good transcription service will provide excellent accuracy, so the files are professional and easy to read. Most transcription companies can even upload completed files into the correct portion of an electronic health records (EHR) system. This automated process saves time for busy physicians, making it a preferred method of file delivery using an HL7 interface.
Are you a telemedicine practice? Ditto Transcripts has you covered. We are trained in medical language and have delivered exceptional transcription to the medical field since 2010.