Telemedicine Use Spikes During Natural Disasters
No one in their right mind would argue that ease of access to health care and the ability to self-diagnose are of paramount importance to almost everyone. And modern telecommunications are ready to give us a real revolution in this area.
The concept of “telemedicine” came into everyday life relatively recently, although the “online treatment” includes telephone consultations with a familiar doctor, calling an ambulance, and cardiac monitoring. For the first time in history, the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Bell, resorted to telemedicine services when he called a doctor over the phone.
The birthday of telemedicine in the modern sense is March 22, 1905, when Willem Eithoven, a professor of physiology at Leiden University – Nobel laureate, inventor of electrocardiography – transmitted a normal electrocardiogram from his home laboratory to a university clinic at a distance of 1.5 kilometers using a telephone cable. And he also used the Latin prefix “tele-” for the first time to denote the distance of medical care, when he called his system “telecardiogram”.
Telemedicine in the USA
The World Health Organization is developing the idea of creating a global telecommunications network in medicine. There are more than 250 telemedicine projects in the world, which by their nature are divided into clinical (the overwhelming majority), educational, informational and analytical.
There were a lot of experiments around the world at different times, but Norway was officially the first country where telemedicine was used.
The American project Doctor on Demand is a platform that allows doctors to consult patients online around the clock via video communication. The peculiarity of the system is that doctors can diagnose a disease and also write an electronic prescription for a medicine. The average patient waiting time for a doctor is 4 minutes, 97% of all patients expressed satisfaction with the services provided, and the cost of the service is 4-5 times lower than when visiting a doctor in person.
Telemedicine kiosks are becoming an important part of medical programs in the United States. You can apply for help to such a kiosk right from the workplace; fortunately, the employer pays for the consultation within the framework of social insurance programs.
A bit of history
Since then, every invention in the field of communication and data transmission has been used in one way or another for medical purposes.
- At the end of the 19th century, military medics exchanged statistical data by telegraph – they passed each other lists of the wounded and killed, sent requests for medicines. They say that this is how field doctors ordered medicines during the American Civil War;
- The telegraph station stood at the home of the legendary doctor Nikolai Sklifosovsky, who actively used it to communicate with patients;
- At the beginning of the twentieth century, stethoscopes were patented in Europe and the United States, which made it possible to transmit the auscultatory picture of the heart and lungs via telephone communication at a distance;
- In 1929, photo prints of two dental radiographic images transmitted by telegraph were published, and the high quality of the images was noted;
- The first televised surgery was broadcast on May 31, 1949 at the University of Pennsylvania;
- In the 1970s and 1980s, NASA transmitted clinical data via television in Arizona, Boston, Canada;
- In the 70s, when the opportunity arose, a large program was developed in the USSR for the transfer of electrocardiograms to special counseling centers;
- Telemedical “bridges” made it possible to conduct more than 300 clinical consultations for victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia and to help victims of the gas pipeline explosion in Ufa in 1989, providing audio, video and facsimile communication between disaster zones , Moscow clinics and four leading US medical centers.
New technologies are changing opportunities
Modern telemedicine is inseparable from the digitalization of all processes, one way or another related to health. Doctors will have to abandon paper media and branded clumsy handwriting, learn to interact with huge arrays of reference information and use the support of AI-like systems, and establish systematic monitoring of patient data in real-time.
A typical example from the present sprouting in the future: the CheXNeXt neural network processed 420 X-ray images in 1.5 minutes and produced a result not inferior to the conclusions of professional radiologists who took 240 minutes to complete the same work. In some moments, it still yielded to the most qualified specialists, but this is only the very beginning of the development of specialized analytical systems.
Organization of the process
The patients’ records (illness, health) should be stored electronically, for example, in the “cloud” of a medical institution. This is the whole history, including birth date, weight, height, the first tooth, tummy cramps, chickenpox, mumps, flu, trauma, surgery, the results of examinations, analyzes, ultrasound, MRI, X-ray. Having a complete picture on hand, the doctor will be able to more accurately diagnose and prescribe treatment. For example, Florida Hospital eCare patients enjoy simplified and accelerated medical procedures:
- Making an appointment with a doctor is as easy as buying a ticket via the Internet;
- In the admissions departments of automated hospitals, patients will be examined using cameras, sensors will determine heart rate, body temperature and respiratory rate, special devices will be able to measure blood pressure and make an ECG within 10 seconds;
- Diagnoses are made dozens of times more accurately, and the effectiveness of treatment is incomparably higher;
- During the appointment, the doctor will prescribe a sick leave, which will go to the social insurance fund and to work, and the prescribed medications will be instantly visible to the pharmacist in any pharmacy according to the passport data;
- Self-diagnosis will become common and familiar. Mobile applications and wearable devices will allow you to monitor your health;
- After receiving and drawing up a treatment plan, patients will be able to communicate with the doctor remotely;
- The system will automatically analyze the patient’s condition in real time, detect deviations from the diet or course of treatment, and send digital notifications.