The use of modern means of communication for the remote provision of medical and consultative services is a branch of medicine that tries to limit the impact of distance on the access to health care for a population. Telemedicine is a domain that tends to be considered new, partially due to its relatively low rate of usage compared to the traditional ways of consultation. Nevertheless, this perception is challenged by the fact that providing medical advice and commentaries, for instance, by the phone, is not innovative, and thus the history of telemedicine can be tied to the invention of the telephone. Social distancing is a factor that augments the need for telemedicine rapidly and spotlights the prospects of the research related to this domain. Telemedicine is a potentially great instrument to access healthcare in a situation that restricts a person’s ability to move, and it is also beneficial in a workplace environment.
The capacity of an illness to reduce a person’s productivity seems to be a pearl of conventional wisdom. Decreased performance from employees is the first indication that it is reasonable for employers to be interested in their employees’ health. Moreover, it leads to the conclusion that investing in maintaining an adequate state of the workforce is a less direct way to invest in an organization. Companies on the territory of the United Stated lose approximately 150 billion dollars due to low productivity and mistakes that sick employees tend to commit more often according to several studies (Spain, 2017). Proponents of telemedicine evoke arguments that describe it as a rational way to provide medical consultative services, portraying vis-à-vis appointments with a doctor as costly, time-consuming, and inconvenient (Spain, 2017). Additional line of reasoning claims that telemedical consultation is more likely to uncover an inceptive sickness since employees have fewer inquietudes to address it (Spain, 2017). Besides the described beneficial elements, a pandemic is another situation that calls for telemedicine incorporation in the workplace. Hence, the inclusion of telemedical services is an advantageous affair, the significance of which is emphasized by current events.
Despite numerous positive sides that the installation of telemedicine may entail, several barriers exist, hindering its wider spreading. These barriers may be pertinent to both more traditional medicine and telemedicine or include challenges peculiar only to telemedical health services. Limited reimbursement is named as one of them, as “about 90 million people are in managed care systems, yet there is not much evidence about managed care organizations using telemedicine to control costs” (Institute of Medicine, 2012, p. 18). The problems associated with reimbursement also involve insurance coverage which is more common, but incomplete (Dorsey & Topol, 2016). As a result, additional restrictions emerge due to the fear that telemedicine will allow healthcare abuse. Licensing and practice regulations with such services as the FDA and FCC do not help render telemedicine more utilized (Institute of Medicine, 2012). On the other hand, such factors as publicity surrounding telemedicine nowadays lead to the growing number of reimbursement models and expansion of telemedicine networks, serving as facilitators for the incorporation processes (Dorsey & Topol, 2016). Thus, telemedicine installation is a workplace complex procedure that becomes increasingly uncomplicated.
Planning and implementing a telemedical program requires a deep understanding of its specificities, expertise in medicine, and ample resources. As stated by AlDossary et al. (2017), “telemedicine should be driven by the needs of patients and clinicians rather than technology. Each community has its unique requirements that should be addressed accordingly” (p. 2). The program may present strategic objectives that coincide with the vision of an organization and its employees’ needs (Dorsey & Topol, 2016). A health needs assessment also could be conducted among personnel to be able to target their needs better and focus on health issues that are more likely to arise.
Once the data is gathered and analyzed, the priority setting should determine the employees’ primary concerns, such as what healthcare services are not available for them at the moment, showing the health areas that should be emphasized. The process of prioritization may be based on different criteria varying from the frequency of the referral to using economic analysis to find the most cost-beneficial needs to be offered (AlDossary et al., 2017). In this way, planning and implementing a telemedical program should potentially stem from researching the group for which it would be provided. Planning is one of the factors that is supposed to be executed skillfully since it lays a foundation for program implementation. Mistakes that may occur on this level have the potential to manifest once the telemedicine program is already established and complicate their rectification.
The quality of telemedical services is partially based on the doctor-patient relationships that are peculiar due to telemedicine’s format. Patients’ satisfaction could be to a certain degree based on how masterfully a medical professional functions and manages particularities of remote communication and makes sure that a patient trusts this new setting equally as more conventional one (Tuckson et al., 2017). If not executed well, doctor-patient communication may lead to unsatisfying results from telemedicine.
Scientific, technical, economic, and social conditions for the development of telemedicine exist in almost all developed countries. The current situation that requires social distancing combined with grounded in research need for healthcare provision ensured by employers makes telemedicine a prominent medical branch. It may be approaching the turning point as circumstances seem favorable for the more comprehensive implementation and expansion of the research dedicated to telehealth.
AlDossary, S., Martin-Khan, M.G., Bradford, N.K., Armfield, N. R., & Smith, A. C. (2017). The development of a telemedicine planning framework based on needs assessment. Journal of Medical Systems, 41(74), 1–9.
Dorsey, E. R., & Topol, E. J. (2016). State of telehealth (Campion, E. W. Ed.).. The New England Journal of Medicine, 375(2), 154–161.
Institute of Medicine. (2012). The role of telehealth in an evolving health care environment: Workshop summary. The National Academies Press.
Spain, P. (2017). . First Stop Health.
Tuckson, R. V., Edmunds, M., & Hodgkins, M. L. (2017). Telehealth (Campion, E. W. Ed.).. The New England Journal of Medicine, 377(16), 1585–1592.