Telehealth: innovation or proven technique? Current developments and projects

26 January 2018

What do you think of when you hear about telehealth or telemedicine? How telehealth may change the lives of people for the better, allowing them to get access to more affordable healthcare services and saving their time, while ensuring quality treatment and help to support their physical and mental wellbeing? Stay with us to learn more.

General idea

Telehealth emerged in response to growing shortage of healthcare specialists in rural areas in the United States as well as restricted access to highly specialized doctors such as speech-language pathologists to fill those gaps. It was as early as about 50 years ago when several hospitals decided to trial and experiment with reaching out patients in distant locations using available technologies such as radio, telephone or video-conference calls. Over the time the concept has expanded to cover more aspects, include a greater number of practices and activities performed both by licensed physicians and patients.

Today telehealth is embracing all projects associated with healthcare, treatment, theorizing, advisory, consulting and information sharing in the area, starting naturally from distant attendance and treatment of patients using every modern information technology and going as far as to cover presentations and talks held between the specialists themselves discussing various problems and issues related to high-end care methods, medical practices and remote control of robots performing surgery.

Telehealth or telemedicine?

In modern practice the terms ‘telehealth’ and ‘telemedicine’ are often used interchangeably, however, telehealth is a wider concept involving most diverse use of modern information technologies by doctors and people when discussing or addressing healthcare issues, whereas telemedicine refers exclusively to treatment and care exercised by specialists over the available channels of communication. In the United Kingdom and Europe they use the term eHealth to describe telehealth and other elements of medical information technologies. In our post we use telehealth and telemedicine as equal terms.

Telehealth categories

Telemedicine is often categorized into three major types including store-and-forward telemedicine, remote patient monitoring services and real-time or interactive programs.

Store-and-forward telemedicine, another name of which is asynchronous telemedicine, describes solutions allowing healthcare services providers to send and share the information about the patients such as examination or monitoring results, laboratory data, x-ray images, videos and records with each other when the patient is transferred from one place to another. Store-and-forward telemedicine enables attending physician and consulting specialists to forward patient information without the need to see in person. Thus, this category is used primarily to describe distant interaction of healthcare specialists.

Remote patient monitoring involves the use of dedicated tools by patients at home for monitoring and tracking the dynamics of the patient’s health or disease and sending those data to a physician for interpreting and recording. Patients may use special devices to analyze the blood sugar level, and if everything is good with their results, a physician just records the data obtained. If otherwise, a patient is contacted by a doctor for further consultations and guidance.

Real-time telemedicine describes practices of distant attendance of patients by physicians, which is, probably, the first idea coming to somebody hearing about ‘telehealth’ or ‘telemedicine’. Real-time or synchronous telemedicine involves remote live communication between healthcare specialists with the patients, using video calls and other information technologies to monitor the state of their health and provide guidance on follow-up treatment. Real-time telemedicine is an alternative to in person visit to a doctor.

Teladoc

TeladocTeladoc Inc is one of the oldest telemedicine service providers in the United States, based in Dallas, Texas, and founded in 2002 by Dr. Byron Brooks, who was a NASA flight surgeon at the time, and Michael Gorton, a serial entrepreneur, with the wide public launch across the nation in 2005. Teladoc provides access to primary healthcare specialists via telephone and videoconferencing solutions offering live on-demand medical treatment and monitoring for patients using their mobile devices and Internet connection.

In 2015 Teladoc gained the status of the only publicly traded telemedicine company on the New York Stock Exchange and in 2016 it got an approval of the American Hospital Association for its telehealth technologies. As of today Teladoc provides services across 48 of 50 states in the USA with a round the clock access 365 days a year through the Internet, phone and mobile applications. The average callback time from the moment, when a patient places an order for phone or video consultation, is 16 minutes.

Fees charged by Teladoc for its services depend on the plan chosen by patients and include flexible spending or health spending accounts. The services range include pediatric services, non-emergency healthcare issues, dermatological conditions, mental healthcare consultations covering depression or addiction problems, sexual health advise and prescriptions for drug preparations, as well as interpreting and analyzing laboratory results.

MDLive

MDLiveMDLive is another oldest telehealth services provider, based in Sunrise, Florida, and founded in 2009. The company is mainly focused on digital access to top quality medical care helping patients save their time and costs on expensive visits and in-person consultation with physicians. The services of MDLive are used by patients, health plans, healthcare systems and self-insured employers and are available for 24 hours, 7 days a week, all the year round.

MDLive believes that it may replace more expensive and cumbersome procedures for emergency room and urgent care visits in cases not related with emergency issues, such as sore throat, asthma, allergies, fever, urinary tract infections and others. Besides, MDLive provides access to services in mental healthcare, including consultations of specialists associated with family psychology, children behavior, and depression resulting from losses or grief. MDLive also provides solutions for healthcare specialists to share and access patient information on laboratory results, medical records and clinical data for quick risk assessment, guidance, diagnostics and care.

American Well

American WellAmerican Well, a Boston, Massachusetts-based telehealth company was founded back in 2006 by two brothers Drs. Ido and Roy Schoenberg. The company ensures connection between the physicians, healthcare specialists and patients using secure video communication solutions. American Well offers a range of immediate urgent care services to US citizens in 46 states. Its solutions are based on the Internet-technologies and mobile apps, enabling customers to get more convenient and faster access to video attendance.

At its early inception American Well was targeting health insurance companies as the primary audience and in 2008 the company introduced its first health plan customer, Hawaii Medical Service Association. Over time American Well has subscribed 23 more Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

DocCoin

DocCoinDocCoin is a global telehealth-oriented service platform with the latest technologies at the core of its business, as it uses blockchain and smart contract solutions to provide access to digital healthcare services worldwide. The key goal of the company is to bring together healthcare specialists, licensed doctors, health insurance providers, hospitals, healthcare plans and patients at one place to enable them to interact with each other.

Customers may use DocCoin platform to find the information about the physicians available worldwide for live communication and treatment, helping patients to save their time and costs on physical contact and in-person attendance, while providing healthcare specialists with access to a wider audience, and thus increase their income flows.

Using DocCoin platform patients will be able to compare and find the best price and match of a healthcare specialist they need and enjoy the convenience of getting real-time prescriptions and medical treatment from any location in the world with specialists providing consultations in a language they understand.

All transactions will be secured through smart contracts based on the Ethereum blockchain platform, which will also enable specialists to store and share patient information with each other. Using the application provided by DocCoin patients may have diagnostics and consult a wide range of health professionals.

As DocCoin is powered by blockchain technologies, all transactions will naturally be performed in cryptocurrency, its own crypto tokens. The company is preparing for public Initial Coin Offering that will start on February 9, 2018, but the pre-sale of the tokens began on January 25, and will last up to February 2. During the pre-sale investors will be able to purchase DocCoin tokens (DOC) at a price of 0.0001 ETH.

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