AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

A Moment of Clarity

In order to make true progress in any industry, there must first be a clear vision, with goals and milestones laid out to define the path forwards. For telehealth, this vision must be extremely fluid, due to the constant introduction of new technologies and new research findings shaping best practices for successful implementation.

2012 was an important year, with new developments in government regulation shaping policy and procedure as well as a great deal of newsmedia coverage of the benefits of telehealth programs for healthcare systems and the patients they serve. Thanks to this progress, the vision for 2013 and beyond is becoming clearer.

First, 2012 helped us form a better understanding of the difference between telemedicine and telehealth. Whereas the power of telemedicine lies in its ability to connect doctors and extend care to new frontiers, telehealth places more emphasis on the role of patients. Traditionally, physicians and payers decided how healthcare was delivered. Today, consumers and employers have more say. Granting patients a voice in the dialogue has resulted in new avenues for improving the speed and quality of healthcare delivery – better home monitoring, non-emergency teleconsultation, and other services that reduce the use of valuable time and resources.

Going hand-in-hand with patient knowledge has been focused awareness of the steps that technology needs to take to enable better delivery. Generally speaking, usability is a major consideration. Improving infrastructure, particularly the availability and speed of broadband access will be pivotal to moving the needle on healthcare delivery. There is also a need for simpler, user-friendly hardware. Smartphones and tablets are far more likely to enter patient’s lexicon than diagnostics systems and more complex robotics.

Combining a more open dialogue with patients and giving them the tools they need and will bolster telehealth’s role in the healthcare ecosystem in 2013. Fortunately, hospitals have gained this clarity and are placing high priority on adopting telehealth programs. As this understanding becomes clearer, the impact will be greater.

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