Telehealth is a combination of medicine and the access to health care services remotely through the use of technology such as digital and telecommunication. Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth, that allow patients to consult doctors virtually.
HiDoc, a telemedicine app from Singapore was co-found by Dr Christina Low, who said that telehealth was used to treat patients in remote places with little access to health facilities when it was first created. However, apart from access, the use of telehealth can also amplify the capacity of clinicians and healthcare networks which is useful for healthcare systems that do not have enough clinicians per head of population.
Telemedicine is now also used as a tool for convenient medical care that allow doctors to diagnose conditions, and prescribe treatments when non-urgent immediate care is required, together with follow-up care with both specialists and primary physicians.
The rise of telemedicine
A survey by Mercer, 78 percent of respondents from Asia are ready to use digital healthcare, compared to 66 percent around the world as telehealth provides real opportunity to link patients with expert clinicians.
Having used telemedicine in the medical sector for quite some time, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting and the enforcement of safety precautions such as social distancing, many people all over the world have turned online for most activities including, seeing a doctor.
Hence, causing an upsurge in demand in the telemedicine industry as the pandemic has removed the behavioural and economic barrier for a more widespread adoption of telemedicine.
The biggest contributing factor for the lack of adoption of telemedicine is the scepticism of online diagnosis, despite digital solutions being seen as safe and convenient, especially during a pandemic.
With 58 percent of countries using telemedicine to replace in person consultations, studies worldwide have shown that patient outcomes in telemedicine consultations are not inferior to those in standard care situations.
Not everybody can benefit from telehealth. For example, if a patient has got significant acute illness that need constant monitoring and review or lab tests done frequently, it is not necessarily beneficial to have it done via telemedicine.
Looking to the future
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry watchers said that the telemedicine sector, and its role in healthcare would be radically altered, with the key being to figure out how to maintain the momentum created by the pandemic.
The increase in telemedicine has been forced upon us due to lockdowns and when consumers begin using digital tools, including digital healthcare tools, they continue to use them. Therefore, it is expected that telemedicine will continue to be used as an adjunct to traditional medical care.