Necessity is the mother of invention they say. But in the case of the Baby Boomer generations it is also the mother of innovation. The nations largest generation is demanding more convince and efficiency from their health care providers and providers are responding with more creative use of technology.
The latest innovation is coming from the field of Telemedicine when patients and doctors are using technology to increase communication and avoid unnecessary cost.
Telemedicine is not a new concept. The method of communicating a patients health status remotely through the telephone has been around for about a decade. One of the earliest pioneers in telemedicine was Philips who developed the Lifeline system as an emergency alert system for the frail elderly. Lifeline later developed automated medication reminder/dispensing systems as well as ways to communicate vitals remotely to a patients primary physicians office.
Now the game is changing again as home-based health care services like visiting physicians and home care companies are utilizing telemedicine to communicate more effectively with patients. A recent article in US News written Dr. Vik Bakhru, CEO of First Opinion a mobile health company in San Francisco, says his company is using both new and existing technology to improve communication with their patients.
The implications for telemedicine are far-reaching, and have the potential to completely transform the health care industry for the better. Take for instance those unnecessary doctor visits, which are easily the biggest contributor to the long waiting room times and short doctor/patient face time. Too often, these visits are simply to determine if an ailment actually needs the attention of a doctor.
When the answer is no, it is a completely wasted trip. But if a patient is simply wondering if a skin irritation is minor or symptomatic of a more serious condition, having the ability to text message a doctor or text a photo of the affected area to a physician to get an informed opinion on next steps could be a major time saver – not to mention that it gives the patient peace of mind, faster. By streamlining that first contact, the whole industry will begin to see positive effects as less time and money is wasted in the waiting room.
Dr. Bakhru goes on to say “What we need is a bridge between efficiency and efficacy, between cost-effectiveness and quality of care.”
The industry is in desperate need of cost saving measures as the number of retired American’s grows at a record pace. Telemedicine could be the method that can finally cut some of the waste in the health care system without sacrificing quality.
The forward thinking folks at First Opinion aren’t the only medical professionals using technology to get better outcomes for patients. Some home care companies are including emergency alert systems like Lifeline as part of their service to better respond to their patients needs. Traditional doctors offices are also turning to things like web cams to check on patients at home.
For those family members who are trying to care for an elderly parent while holding down a full-time job, telemedicine can help keep them in connect with key members of the health care team.
Tell us your story, have you successfully used telemedicine technology as a caregiver. We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or send an email to AnthonyFischer@elderadvocacygroup.info.