A case for telemedicine in surgical careSunday, May 16, 2021
Dr Ché Bowen
GLOBALLY, the use of telemedicine has been made popular within the last year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As a patient, you may have been encouraged to consider telemedicine options for treatment and diagnosis to avoid the spread of the virus. You may have even considered it as an option for the treatment of sensitive and uncomfortable illnesses such as erectile dysfunction and vaginal discharge. However, telemedicine's benefits go beyond these every day treatments. Researchers have identified advantages of using telemedicine for more serious surgical procedures and have benefited from its use during pre-, peri- and post-surgical stages.
In case you aren't clear about what telemedicine is, it's a term used to describe a health-care service in which doctors can communicate with patients remotely, using telecommunication technologies. Common modes of telemedicine technology include mobile applications, digital images, video, audio calls and text messaging. You might be concerned that these methods couldn't be safely used in more complicated medical treatments, so check out these nine benefits of telemedicine's use in surgical care.
Pre-surgery — Assessments, diagnosis, consultations with other doctors
1. It saves unnecessary trips to the hospital: Not only will your surgeon be able to administer a full and accurate assessment via telemedicine, but it will also save you the time and money spent to make the trip to the doctor's office. Telemedicine encourages a clear line of communication between you (the patient) and your doctor. For example, skin cancer screening via a specialised telemedicine camera lens/device is just one of the many opportunities offered by this type of technology for serious illnesses.
2. It allows your surgeon to easily consult with other surgeons in different departments: Doctors can share scans and other patient information via telecommunications systems to get referrals from other surgeons and subspecialties in different departments. Studies have suggested that using these tools of communication has reduced the need to transfer patients from referring hospitals by approximately 30-50 per cent.
3. It allows for pre-assessments for medical tourism procedures: For cosmetic or other procedures set to be done in a different country, telemedicine provides a point of examination and consultation with your doctor before travel. Whether it's breast implants, facelifts, liposuction, or lip augmentation, you can be pre-assessed via telemedicine. As the patient, you may also get the opportunity to decide if you are comfortable with your doctor, their fees, and whether or not you still want to go through with your procedure, all via telemedicine.
Peri-surgery — Avoiding complications and transfers
4. Reduction of complications during surgery: Where does telemedicine come in during your actual surgery time? Ideally, the use of telemedicine for various consultations done before surgery should accurately guide your operation and specific needs. Studies have found that you are not only less likely to be transferred to another surgeon, but also less likely to have complications if you have been fully evaluated beforehand via telemedicine.
Post-surgery — assessments and follow-ups
5. Wound assessment can be done easily post-surgery: Telemedicine provides a clear and accurate way of assessing your wounds. Through the use of digital photographs or video calls, your doctor will be able to monitor surgical wounds to ensure they are healing well without infection. In fact, there are now even artificial intelligence telemedicine devices that can accurately monitor wound healing. If all is well, you will be able to remain at rest in the comfort of your home without the journey to the doctor, which may cause discomfort and disruption in your healing process.
6. Remote patient monitoring (RPM): Through RPM, your doctor will be able to monitor your blood pressure or surgical drains, for example. This will allow assessments of any complications to be done automatically and with ease. RPM will contribute to post-surgical follow-up meetings with your surgeon, which can also take place via telemedicine technologies. Being accurately monitored after surgery may be the reason you avoid complications and possible readmission to the hospital.
Technology has allowed us to navigate our lives with more ease, and taking advantage of this ease in health care is a development that can only prove useful. There will be barriers to the development of telemedicine, such as access to and knowledge on how to use the technology, both as patients and doctors. Understanding telemedicine's position in more complicated procedures, such as surgery, is one step towards the implementation of these technologies across the health-care industry.
Dr Ché Bowen, a digital health entrepreneur and family physician, is the CEO & founder of MDLink, a digital health company that provides telemedicine options. Check out the company's website at www.theMDLink.com. You can also contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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