Use cases for telehealth continue to grow as patients increase their adoption and as healthcare providers introduce new telehealth applications to expand their capabilities and patient bases. The result is creating opportunities for better care for more patients, along with cost savings and new sources of revenue for providers.
But, while telehealth has already made a case for cost reduction and more convenient and better access to care, how far can it go in actually saving lives? Fundamentally, telehealth services are designed to connect patients to providers or providers to other providers to eliminate barriers of geography in delivering care. It follows, then, as continue to evolve, telehealth can also be used to deliver care in emergency and life-threatening situations. In fact, already today, some providers believe the lives saved through telehealth reach into the thousands at their practices.
Here are a few scenarios where telehealth services could be used to treat patients in critical situations.
Local providers may not be accessible and even if they are, they are likely at peak capacity. Using telehealth services, emergency shelters, relief workers, paramedics, and others can set up remote consultations with facilities anywhere to aid with injuries as well as other potential life-threatening conditions. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, used telehealth technology to handle multiple severe conditions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when veterans were unable to get to healthcare providers.
Telehealth allows therapists and psychiatrists to treat patients more easily, including those who may be close to or have already reached crisis stages and are on the verge of drastic measures without intervention. The country is already dealing with a dangerous opioid epidemic, as well as with a young adult suicide rate that has tripled since the 1950s and, in general, mental health conditions are on the rise. Whether issues arise from substance abuse recovery, the stresses of college life, the death of a family member, or any other trigger, they can result in irreversible, unfortunate actions, so getting those patients the help they need when they need it is critical.
Stroke response is a race against time and, since strokes happen quickly and without notice, the window of opportunity for treatment can be limited. With telehealth technologies, the chances of recovery can be improved by providing neurologists the information to make real-time diagnoses anywhere. Kaiser Permanente, for instance, has reported a 73% increase in being able to treat stroke victims with tPA since implementing its telehealth system for stroke treatment.
Equipping ambulances and other first responders with mobile telehealth capabilities allows for immediate consultations with hospitals or specialists while patients are being transported to facilities – or even in the field to determine the best course of action for transport. That can be extremely useful in any of the above situations, but first responders may need to quickly assess and determine immediate steps in many situations, from car accidents to sports injuries and from night club shootings to near-drownings. The ability to quickly deliver information and images to physicians can lead to faster and more effective treatment either en route or upon arrival at the hospital, because doctors have already been able to make early assessments and prepare staff appropriately.
The benefits of telehealth are already being realized by patients and providers nationwide, but enhancing caregiving through mobile solutions can literally save lives by bringing doctors to the scene virtually. To find out how you can implement telehealth, click here.