Image via Flickr by Tunstall Telehealthcare

Technological advances in medicine usually come in the form of new types of equipment or new tests to detect diseases. But now, innovative modes of communication are at the forefront of the new advances, improving health care efficiency and expanding care for more people than ever before. Welcome to the new era of telehealth.

What is Telehealth?

Through computers and mobile devices, medical professionals monitor your medical conditions, consult with specialists, and avoid costly doctor office visits. Telehealth makes the digital exchange of information easy and quick. With monitoring equipment, your doctor keeps tabs on your vital signs, blood glucose levels, activity levels, and more. The information goes directly to your doctor, with no need to wait for your next appointment. This data saves patients from expensive hospital visits, as an immediate action can prevent a developing problem.

Patient Portals

New patient portals offer direct links to doctors. These portals allow you to access your medical information, request prescription refills, review test results, and read summaries of recent visits. You can also send emails directly to the doctor, pay bills, or even video chat with your doctor or specialists without leaving your home.

Virtual Appointments

If your health condition requires frequent visits to the doctor for checking vital signs, you can replace that with a virtual appointment. Your doctor receives your information in real time and then consults with you through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It not only saves you a trip to the office, but it also takes less time while still providing the high-quality health care you expect. It may take some getting used to, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Remote Monitoring

One of the biggest advantages of telehealth is the ability to monitor patients remotely. For elderly patients or those with chronic diseases, it reduces the stress of going out to the doctor’s office. From web-based and mobile apps, all vital information ends up at the doctor’s office the minute you send it. You may also be able to use wearable devices that continuously track vital signs, physical activity, sleep patterns, and more. For housebound patients, monitors notify emergency personnel of falls or other accidents. Family members whose older relatives live alone gain peace of mind, too.

Doctor Consultations

Primary care doctors and specialists now have the ability to video conference, too. Plus, Sending a patient’s information, test results, or even X-rays electronically means faster response times. Patients won’t have to wait weeks to see a specialist, as relaying information lets doctors prioritize appointments and forgo office visits when possible. Many times, these consultations also include the patient, so they get answers to their questions quickly.

3-D Printing

With a 3-D printer, doctors and surgeons can design tools and create prosthetic devices for patients that once might have taken years to develop. Even drugs can benefit from 3-D printing technology, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 3-D printed prescription pill in 2015. Organs for transplant may also come from 3-D printers in the future.

As technology continues to evolve, the next wave of medical advances are just around the corner. Today’s digital technology leads the way, making health care more efficient and as close as your nearest device.