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Telemedicine: An Effective Tool to Reduce the Number of Patients in Hospitals

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) or the internet in our everyday lives is one of the highlights of the 21st century. The internet is gradually changing the way we live our lives in every aspect. We now require the internet for virtually everything we do, from watching movies, talking to friends and family, ordering the latest Gucci bag, buying food or real estate, the list of the possibilities of the internet is endless. The internet have also been able to break into industries or sectors that we didn't think it could, it has completely revolutionize those industries by breaking complex protocols into smaller bits that can be easily understood and accessed.

One of such industry is the health industry. Before now nobody thought it would be possible to receive healthcare without actually visiting a hospital. No one thought it would be possible to schedule an appointment with a doctor and get premium medical advice, all from the comfort of our homes. The internet have completely simplified the process of accessing healthcare, it has broken the geographical barriers between patients and doctors such that, a patient can be in Nigeria and receive premium healthcare from a doctor in America without having to actually visit the United States of America in person. Prior to this century nobody would have believed this would be possible. but here we are with a simplified life courtesy of information technology.

The concepts, the processes, the requirements for giving and receiving healthcare from anywhere in the world are all summed up in a technology known as Telemedicine or Telehealth.

Telehealth is the distribution of health related information and services through electronic transmission and telecommunication technologies. Telemedicine is used synonymously with telehealth but there's a slight variation between both concepts. Telemedicine ecan be used to provide home-based nocturnal dialysis, improved joint management e.t.c.

Before we differentiate between telehealth and telemedicine, let us first understand the concept of the technology behind both of them. The telehealth technology allows for long distance patient and clinician contact via the Internet, and with this, the clinician can share useful information to the patient, advice the patient, monitor the patient, remotely admit the patient e.t.c. The way it works is that both the patient and the doctor will make use of a telemedicine app to connect with each other. Telemedicine apps are softwares or mobile applications designed for the sole purpose of transmission and distribution of health related information and services from health personnels to patients online. Healthcare providers can also use telemedicine apps to relate useful health informations amongst themselves by holding virtual meetings, seminars and conferences to discuss latest trends in the health sector. With telemedicine, it is possible for surgeons to perform surgeries using specialised robots, the surgeon will not need to be in the theatre physically, everything will be handled by the robot but the surgeon will have remote access to the robot, with this the surgeon can control the robot from anywhere in the world.

The difference between telemedicine and telehealth is the scope they cover. Telemedicine only covers remote clinical services like diagnosis and monitoring while telehealth includes preventive, promotive and curative care delivery.

Telemedicine benefits us in a lot of ways, for example in a rural setting where there might be no access to quality health care or difficulty in transportation or even inadequate funds to get premium health care, telemedicine can be used to provided the needed health information because with telemedicine, there will be no need to get the patient to the hospital physically, the patient will have access to the best doctors from any part of the world and all this can save the patient from spending too much because telemedicine cost a small amount of money. Telemedicine requirements include, a strong and reliable internet connection and an electronic transmission system that is, a computer or a mobile phone. There are four types of telemedicine or telemedicine examples, they include:

1. Live Video: in this type of telemedicine, the patient and the doctor communicates in real time using audio-visual technologies.

2. Store and forward: in this type of telemedicine, the patient and the doctor do not need to be present, the patient sends medical data( image, video, audio) to the doctor for offline assessment

3. Remote patient monitoring: This is also known as self monitoring, here the doctor monitors the patient remotely using various technological devices.

4. Mobile health: this involves the use of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, smart watches to provide health services, collect health data and transmit health information.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the need for telemedicine cannot be overemphasized, with telemedicine social distancing can be achieved in the healthcare sector and patients will still have access to medical care thereby saving the lives of both the patients and healthcare providers. Prior to the outbreak of corona virus, it was reported in 2019 that only 39% of physicians in the United States used telemedicine in their practice however, in the wake of the outbreak of the virus, there has been a massive adoption of telemedicine by governments, physicians and patients across the globe due to the overwhelming number of patients and a reduced number of healthcare providers in hospitals. This latest trend shows a positive COVID-19 impact on telemedicine/telehealth.

One or the major challenges of telemedicine is that, most people in the rural areas do not know how to use telemedicine and may not have access to a strong internet connection and electronic devices required to access telemedicine platforms.

Telemedicine is still is a striving business but the market value has grown significantly in recent years. As at 2019, telemedicine global market was valued at 45 billion US dollars, however the value has been projected to rise in 2026 up to 175 billion US dollars in global market value. Telemedicine has attracted some entrepreneurs in Nigeria and there have been a bunch of telemedicine start ups. These smart entrepreneurs have taken advantage of telemedicine opportunities and have built a telemedicine business plan to take advantage of the projected 175 billion US dollars market value of telemedicine. There are various telemedicine organizations in Nigeria, and here's a list of top telemedicine companies in Nigeria:

1. 1Dokita Healthcare limited

2. Medtech Africa

3. Mobihealth

4. Wellvis healthcare

5. Lafiya healthcare

6. Chadelcare pharmaceuticals Nigeria limited.

Note that the list is in no particular order and the position of the companies on the list do not represent the quality of the telemedicine services they render.

Telemedicine is an emerging trend and is yet to reach full adoption but it has enormous health and economic benefits and it is capable of revolutionizing the health care system.

Content created and supplied by: ReadyRyta (via Opera News )

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