Telehealth – Major implications and impacts

Telehealth allows multiple, varying disciplines to merge and deliver a potentially more uniform level of care, using technology. As telehealth proliferates mainstream healthcare, it challenges notions of traditional healthcare delivery. Some populations experience better quality, access, and more personalized health care.


Health promotion

Telehealth can also increase health promotion efforts. These efforts can now be more personalised to the target population and professionals can extend their help into homes or private and safe environments in which patients of individuals can practice, ask and gain health information. Health promotion using telehealth has become increasingly popular in underdeveloped countries where there are very poor physical resources available. There has been a particular push toward mobile Health applications as many areas, even underdeveloped ones have mobile phone and smartphone coverage.

In developed countries, health promotion efforts using telehealth have been met with some success. The Australian hands-free breastfeeding Google Glass application reported promising results in 2014. This application made in collaboration with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and a tech startup called Small World Social, helped new mothers learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is beneficial to infant health and maternal health and is recommended by the World Health Organisation and health organisations all over the world.


Health care quality

Theoretically, the whole health system stands to benefit from telehealth. In a UK telehealth trial done in 2011, it was reported that the cost of health could be dramatically reduced with the use of telehealth monitoring. The usual cost of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) per cycle would be around $15,000, with telehealth it was reduced to $800 per patient. In Alaska the Federal Health Care Access Network which connects 3,000 healthcare providers to communities, engaged in 160,000 telehealth consultations from 2001 and saved the state $8.5 million in travel costs for just Medicaid patients. There are indications telehealth consumes fewer resources and requires fewer people to operate it with shorter training periods to implement initiatives.

However, whether or not the standard of health care quality is increasing is quite debatable, with literature refuting such claims. Research is increasingly reporting that clinicians find the process difficult and complex to deal with. Furthermore, there are concerns around informed consent, legality issues as well as legislative issues. New technologies are making telehealth more accessible for patients and easier for health providers.

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