The term telemedicine originated in the 1970s, originally defined as “healing from a distance” responding to doctors assisting with patient needs over the telephone, and even in a trial using television signals. Telemedicine has evolved since, with the wide-spread use of the internet and mobile technologies extending the meaning to describe when medical professionals use technology to improve patient access to medical information and care.
Telemedicine encompasses a variety of services across voice, text-based messaging systems and video functionality too, commonly using laptops, tablets and smartphones smart phones – although there are much more sophisticated systems and robots on the market such as Kubi and Padbot which can allow users to explore the environment, providing a means of movement as well as sight and sound… but thankfully not smell, yet!
This technology allows patients to access support from their own GP through secure software, like eConsult or even access out of hours help from a pool of GPs with innovations like LIVI and Babylon, but these innovations can - especially since the Covid-19 Pandemic - extend to other health related services including outpatient clinics.
The benefit is not just for the medical professional, and their budget, the patient does not have to physically attend the appointment which saves time, travel expense and reduces the probability of transmission of contagions, enabling the public to receive medical help even in times of lockdown and even as we transition into ‘The New Normal’.
Further scope for use of telemedicine connects care homes with their linked doctors’ practices and commonly used hospital services, providing convenience for carers and reduction of unnecessary hospital admissions for residents. Telemedicine even has practical applications that keep people in their own homes longer too, boosting their quality of life and independence – even those suffering from Dementia.