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mHealth

Telemedicine might sound like a strange fit for an industry that depends on human touch. For most of us, it's hard to imagine seeking treatment from a doctor using a screen or digital portal, rather than face-to-face in an office. But it’s been catching on for several years in many fields, including long-term care.

That’s because telemedicine provides solutions for several longstanding problems, including accessibility to care; the limited mobility of some patient communities including the  disabled and the elderly; and a generally inadequate patient-to-doctor ratio in many areas.

Telemedicine might redefine long-term care as we know it. But first, we have to remove some of the uncertainty and even a bit of a stigma around the technology.

Note: This article adheres to the common use of two terms used to identify people who are Deaf or have hearing loss. The term Deaf (with a capital D) is used to describe individuals who do not hear and are “cultural” sign language users, while the term deaf (with a lower-case d) describes people who may lip-read and/or use hearing aids. 

The expansion of telehealth services across the country has made it possible for almost anyone with a non-emergency medical problem to access a doctor by smart phone, pad or laptop, often within minutes, or at least, the same day. But for the Deaf and hard of hearing, access to telehealth providers such as Teladoc, American Well and others is more of a challenge.

The reason is simple: a videoconferencing session requires participants to hear what the person on the other side of the screen is saying.

Patients, physicians and hospital staff alike can agree that the waiting room is not typically a positive experience for patients. According to a survey conducted by the design and development firm Sequence, 85 percent of patients reported that they wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment times until they see their physicians. Patients consider this to be valuable time that's put to waste and in many cases, their levels of anxiety exacerbate.

While new organizational methods and procedural changes can help get the waiting room in great shape, telemedicine has proved it can help healthcare organizations diminish the long waits and frustrations that patients experience. Here's how telemedicine can improve the reputation of the waiting room:

An aging and expanding population and a nationwide shortage of practicing physicians is worsening, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), and other healthcare experts. The AAMC reported in April that the shortage will amount to up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, as the number of new physicians fails to keep pace with the nation’s growing healthcare demands.

Analysts predict that by 2024, healthcare spending will comprise 20 percent of the U.S. economy.

Some experts forecast a growing pool of available nurse practitioners, who can help fulfill the nation’s healthcare needs by providing accessible, cost-effective care for millions of citizens.

In the meantime, healthcare provider organizations are evaluating technology that could help to fill the physician shortage.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a massive hub of data found in physical devices. From phones to vehicles to smart appliances, items network together to create a large pool of data for anyone to draw information from. A lot of companies find the IoT to be handy for customer feedback and getting ahead of market trends.

Meanwhile, telemedicine involves going to a doctor's appointment remotely — any physician who uses telecommunications to diagnose and treat patients is practicing with telemedicine. Telemedicine is a considerable help in locations where few doctors or specialists are available, and these virtual appointments are just as rewarding as going to a doctor in person. As the healthcare industry becomes more technology-driven, telemedicine is banding together with the IoT to improve both services.

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