What is Telehealth

The advent of Covid-19 has not changed the need for health professionals to provide care, however, it has certainly highlighted the need to change, augment and enhance care models.

We are surrounded in our daily lives with innovative and intuitive personal communications technologies such as WiFi, internet browsers, smartphones, wearable devices and video cameras, and yet they are still underutilised in the healthcare setting.

Telehealth is an overarching banner name given to all forms of communication between a patient and their healthcare provider using some combination of technologies. Telehealth can be as simple as having a consultation with a healthcare provider by phone or video call, or as complex as sharing your blood oxygen levels via a monitoring device connected to a smartphone with your care team over the internet.

Telehealth does not replace traditional carer-patient interaction; however, it complements the face-to-face care that we are all used to, and it enables health professionals to deliver care remotely.

As time progresses and the number of health services provided via technology increase the original banner description of telehealth is being replaced with newer more descriptive titles that better describe the care model, such as:

  • Virtual Care
  • Patient Engagement
  • Digital Health.

Virtual Care

Virtual Care can still be delivered by a health professional via a telephone or video call with their patient; however it also includes the ability to collect and send a patient’s medical data from their smartphone directly to their care team or to a digital medical record across the mobile phone network.

Patient Engagement

Increasingly hospitals and healthcare networks are using digital technologies to engage patients in both pre-admission and post-discharge communication using their smartphones and messaging apps to better co-ordinate and manage a patient’s pathway through their care plan.

Such high levels of patient engagement can:

  • Increase a hospital’s efficiency (i.e. less cancelled procedures)
  • Improve patient outcomes (i.e. patients are better equipped to manage their condition and recovery process)
  • Reduce costs (i.e. reduce the number of readmissions).

Digital Health

Digital Health describes the overarching use of technologies such as Electronics Medical Records and Decision Support Systems and Artificial Intelligence that enables the capture, storage and analytics of patient medical data to enable more streamlined and informed patient care or to assist with research.