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How can Telehealth change the landscape of health in rural areas?

In a developing country such as India, there is huge inequality in healthcare distribution. Although nearly 75% of Indians live in rural villages, more than 75% of Indian doctors are based in cities. Most of the 620 million rural Indians lack access to basic health care facilities. The Indian government spends just 0.9% of the country’s annual gross domestic product on health, and little of this spending reach remote rural areas.  The poor infrastructure of rural health centres makes it impossible to retain doctors in villages, who feel that they become professionally isolated and outdated if stationed in remote areas.

In addition, poor Indian villagers spend most of their out-of-pocket health expenses on travel to the speciality hospitals in the city and staying in the city along with their escorts. A recent study conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Opinion found that 89% of rural Indian patients have to travel about 8 km to access basic medical treatment, and the rest have to travel even farther. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420376/)

Telehealth can help healthcare systems, organizations, and providers improve rural healthcare access and quality. Using telehealth to deliver and assist with the delivery of healthcare services in rural areas can reduce or minimize the challenges and burdens that patients face, such as transportation issues when travelling for speciality care. Telehealth can also improve healthcare monitoring, timeliness, and communication.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when patients and providers sought to reduce in-person contact for routine visits, telehealth became a more prominent mode of healthcare delivery. Laws, reimbursement Telehealth employs telecommunications technology and other electronic data to assist with remote clinical healthcare services, which may also include education, administrative functions, and peer meetings. While one of the most common images of telehealth is a patient speaking via videoconference with a healthcare provider who is located elsewhere, telehealth can also take other forms, such as:

Remote patient monitoring (RPM)

Medical data storage and transmission

Mobile health communication (mHealth)

Effective telehealth-based healthcare services and initiatives offered in rural areas include:

  • During their primary care appointments, patients can obtain integrated care thanks to chronic care management interventions using telemedicine.
  • Real-time access to medical experts in emergency care for examinations and consultations with nearby specialists.
  • Intensive care units (ICUs) provide critical care patient monitoring around the clock by a team of subspecialists and critical care nurses. eNext ICU uses telehealth to monitor rural patients’ intensive care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How can telehealth be used to reach patients in their homes:

  • E-visits, also known as electronic visits, are communications that take place between a patient and a provider over the internet, frequently from the patient’s home. This includes direct-to-consumer telehealth, which can take place synchronously or asynchronously when a patient requests an appointment with a provider using their device.
  • Patients’ residences can be reached using remote patient monitoring (RPM). RPM is the process of gathering patient health and medical information in their homes. Following data collection, the data are sent to a healthcare provider in another area for use in making healthcare decisions. See the Bridges to Care Transitions-Remote Home Monitoring and Chronic Disease initiative as an illustration.
  • Telecare refers to the provision of remote monitoring to people who are elderly or disabled. Telecare provides care and monitoring to these patients, allowing them to live independently in their own homes. Fitness trackers and apps, wearable sensors, medication reminders, and fall detection devices are examples of telecare technology.

Tele Intensive Care Units Has various Benefits

Telemedicine has several advantages in general, but in the case of ICUs in particular, one of the most important advantages is that

  • Patients in remote areas may be visited and treated more readily. When telemedicine wasn’t available, people from rural locations had to work hard to save up the money to travel and then receive medical care. This was not a possibility for the majority of individuals. Some may have even passed away before receiving medical attention in larger cities.
  • Another benefit is that a far larger number of patients can obtain 24/7 access to intensive care specialists and multispecialty doctors from various locations who can help provide enhanced critical care for faster recoveries and generally better health outcomes.
  • The ability to obtain crucial information made available by the most recent technology in tele-ICU devices considerably aids intensivists in determining how serious a patient’s condition is. This significantly lowers ICU problems. Additionally, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience in many forms of critical care, such as Paediatric or pulmonary critical care.
  • The cost of delivering healthcare to individuals in need might be drastically decreased with the use of tele-ICU solutions. Therefore, hospitals can monitor critically ill patients using a network of remote intensivists and critical care teams and generate significantly better revenue streams. Therefore, telemedicine not only makes it possible for doctors to see more patients but also helps the hospital save money. Additionally, there are considerable savings.
  • Patient complications may even be decreased through tele-ICU.Patients are more likely to experience difficulties the longer they stay in an ICU. Most of these issues can be avoided by keeping an eye on ICU patients remotely, and research found that tele-ICUs can help lower mortality rates by an average of 29%. There are now more beds available for the severely or terminally ill thanks to research that demonstrated that using tele-ICU decreased patient duration of stay by a third.
  • Cutting-Edge Technology for Tele-ICU:  No matter how far apart the patients are, doctors may easily watch them with the correct visual aids. This is possible at any time and from any place. The doctor’s task is greatly facilitated by streams of real-time patient data from various interfaces, audio and video conferencing, and more. Even if the intensivist is already actively involved with the patient, this ongoing connection enables him or her to act rapidly and consistently in the event of a problem.
  • The demand for medical services and treatment is frequently larger than the supply, hence the idea behind tele-ICU services was to make the most of available medical resources. This is seen in the ongoing pandemic. When the number of cases was at its highest, the peak times, all hospital beds were fully occupied. More hospitals are beginning to invest in tele-ICU technology since there has been such a rise in the use of ICUs and because multiple clinical studies have endorsed tele-ICU, citing its economical and medical benefits. By adopting more evidence-based strategies in the future, the streams of patient data that are collected by tele-ICU programmes can also be used to optimize health systems.

Reference: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/telehealth

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