The fields of medicine and technology have always been closely linked. Without the benefit of modern technology, we wouldn’t be able to offer many of the essential medical services that we often take for granted today. One of the most important ways that technology is currently influencing the field of medicine can be seen in the emergence of telemedicine. Telemedicine is a vital service that offers numerous benefits to both consumers and the environment.
Here are some of the most important ways that telemedicine is enabling better access to healthcare and on better terms than before.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of administering healthcare remotely, usually over the internet but sometimes also by phone and other methods. Not everyone has the same access to healthcare, and some people find it difficult to access even basic services. This has numerous implications for both their health and the health of the community that they live in. We know that everyone benefits when access to healthcare is more widespread.
In 2020, there are a significant number of people that are reliant on telemedicine services around the world. In addition to the people who need telemedicine, there are also plenty of people who can benefit from it. For example, the ability to consult remotely with an online doctor for minor ailments makes it easier, cheaper, and more convenient for patients to get the services that they need. With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing, telemedicine is in greater demand than ever before.
Reducing The Need To Travel
One way that telemedicine benefits both consumers and the environment is by reducing the need for people to travel to receive medical care. For some people, the physical distance between them and the nearest doctor or hospital is huge. Telemedicine eliminates this barrier and ensures that patients can access the diagnostics and treatments that they need, irrespective of where they happen to live.
It isn’t just patients that have to move about less, either. Doctors are also able to serve a large number of patients from a single location via telemedicine service, potentially reducing their need to travel as well. A vital component of telemedicine services is the ability to send records and data electronically. Prior to the advent of telemedicine, physical records would have to be transported between locations.
Reducing the number of journeys that people are making will, in turn, reduce emissions and, therefore, benefit the environment. Whether it is patients and staff traveling to a hospital or doctors traveling to visit patients, telemedicine reduces or eliminates many of the most common sources of pollution that we associate with healthcare.
Less Paper Waste
The digitization of medical records has been a significant development for a number of reasons. Not only are digital records much easier to share between medical facilities, but in addition, they don’t occupy any physical space. Without the benefit of digital records, everything would have to be recorded using paper records. With telemedicine, all the relevant information can be sent and stored digitally; there’s no need to worry about creating or transmitting physical records.
It isn’t just paper records either. Most medical scans or other diagnostic tests will result in some kind of physical output, such as X-ray scans. These are regularly digitized now, and thanks to telemedicine, they can be viewed and shared digitally and only printed when a physical copy is needed.
Reducing The Amount Of Building Space We Use
Increasing the availability of healthcare services in local areas will inevitably require us to put up more buildings. There is a range of healthcare facilities that are required to provide local populations with a comprehensive service. Each of these facilities requires its own construction project. But if some of these services can be provided through telemedicine, there is less of a need to construct new facilities, as many of the same functions can be performed remotely.
Any construction project is going to have an effect on the local environment, but it isn’t just the physical space required that needs to be taken into consideration. There is a wide range of environmental costs associated with a new medical facility. For example, once it is built, it will need to be provided with electricity and air conditioning, both of which incur and environmental impact of their own.
Because telemedicine eliminates the need to construct at least some of these facilities, it also eliminates their associated environmental impacts.
Telemedicine is an essential service for many people. Being able to access healthcare is important, not only for individual health but for the good of entire communities. There are plenty of people, even within the United States, who struggle to access their doctor when they need to. Whether they are being kept away by physical barriers or financial ones, telemedicine offers a potential lifeline.