Term: Teleconsultation

Description: Teleconsultations utilize information and communications technology to enable geographically separated individuals. This can include health care professionals and their patients or health care professionals holding diagnostic, mentoring, or other decision-making activities related to the delivery of health care services. It is not a separate medical specialty, products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services

According to The Department of Health and Human Services, " Technologies used in teleconsultations typically are: videoconferencing, the Internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications." Even though new applications are being found for this technology frequently, there are still some hurdles to overcome before teleconsultations become a daily part of the health care industry.




Applications: Teleconsultation technology is being applied across many fields of the health care industry. Physicians, with the means to do so, are beginning to integrate telehealth technology into their workplace with the hopes of being more efficient with their time. Some applications include: videoconferencing and video-classrooms. Some of the services that can be provided through Teleconsultation are primary care and specialist consultations, remote patient monitoring, consumer medical and health information, and medical education. Some of the delivery methods of Teleconsultation are networked programs, point-to-point consultations, monitoring center links, and web based e-health patient service sites.

Benefits:
  • Overhead costs go way down as they do not have to have as many rooms available
  • Appointments can be quick and timely.
  • Patients (and even doctors) can talk from the comfort of their own home
  • Easy access to patients who even may be at a far distance from the doctor
  • Improved quality
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Ability to serve areas which don't have certain types of doctors or specialists

Challenges/Cons
  • Some patients lack the medical knowledge or know-how to explain what their problem is
  • Many patients don't even know what to say their problem is and they could lack the ability to correctly explain symptoms
  • Patients may not have the means to teleconsult.
  • Physicians and providers not wanting to use technology
  • Learning curve of technology being used in Teleconsultations



Future Outlook
Video conferencing technology has been on the rise for several years now. With services like Skype bringing an efficient means of video conferencing to consumers, the bridge between being able to use these strictly in businesses and now in homes is growing smaller. The technology divide is being crossed. We will likely see more and more of these be introduced and refined in the coming years. Currently this is actively being pursued in more rural areas of the country due to the lack of specialized medical facilities being available in their area. The American Telemedicine Association has been educating and promoting the use of Teleconsultation through out the country. They also hold a yearly meeting and trade show to promote and showcase technology and its uses in Teleconsultation. It is only a matter of time before Teleconsultation is being used by every healthcare provider in the nation.




Web Resources:
http://www.americantelemed.org/home

Health and Human Services

TeleHealth Grants

University of Florida - TeleDentistry

Teleconsultation in Psychology

http://www.telemedproviders.com/ - A group of physicians who are strongly pushing telemedicine and teleconsulting so that everyone in the world can have access to help.

Related Terminology:

TeleHealth

Video Conferencing

Citations/References:

Department of Health and Human Services - TeleHealth



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