What Is Telemedicine And How Does It Work?

Published on 20/05/2020 by Anna Hammond and Lucca Rossi

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented health crisis, disrupting hospitals and putting a strain on healthcare professionals around the world.

As a result of the pressure put on health centres, there has been an increase in the use of a hugely helpful practice for doctors and patients: Telemedicine. Helpfully, suppliers of telemedicine software have worked to adapt their products to offer the functionality required during this time.

What is telemedicine

Telemedicine response from the Australian Government

Previously, Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) funding in Australia only enabled virtual care for people more than 15km away from a specialist, residents of aged care facilities, or people within the Aboriginal community receiving care. 

However, the Government has responded quickly to the pandemic with a $1.1 billion funding boost. The bulk of this has gone towards telehealth services, including phone and video services to assess and triage suspected and high-risk cases of coronavirus, and an online symptom checker. 

The program also includes mental health consultations, psychological services and psychiatric services, which have seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. It has been expanded to enable vulnerable healthcare professionals to practise via telehealth too, helping to stop the spread of the virus and reduce the demand for PPE.

A major benefit of the service is that it will be bulk-billed by doctors, meaning patients won’t incur out-of-pocket costs, while doctors will receive incentives from the Government to balance this. 

To help clarify the wider role and benefits of this increasingly pertinent practice, this article will outline the key information about how telemedicine works.

How does telemedicine work?

Telemedicine software allows doctors and patients to talk to each other and to perform exams remotely. For patients, this includes not only remote assistance services but diagnosis, education and health research, among others.

The software includes media such as e-mails, instant messaging and phone calls, but one of the most sought after features is video conferencing.

Software used for telemedicine must be specific for medical use, with options for diagnosis, treatment and/or consultation, and not just simply video conferencing programs.

The main benefits of telemedicine, for both doctors and patients, are as follows:

  • Book more appointments: Avoiding commuting, delays, and queues in the waiting room helps doctors to make more appointments and patients to save time.
  • Less cancelled appointments: Making it easier to schedule and monitor appointments by decreasing the number of cancelled visits or no-show patients.
  • Information exchange: Doctors who use the same solution(s) can exchange information more easily and clarify doubts with more experienced professionals.
  • Safety and agility: Doctors can store all patient information safely in one place.
  • Easy access to specialists at a lower cost: Allowing access to clinics and hospitals far from patients’ homes at a lower cost. This is a huge benefit for those far from big urban centres, where most specialists are concentrated.

Main features of telemedicine software

Below are the main features of telemedicine software:

Scheduling appointments

The software allows for the scheduling of appointments and the control of the attendance calendar.

Electronic record

Electronic records gather all the patient’s information (drugs used, diagnoses, medical history, allergies, test results, etc.) and facilitate access to this data.

In addition to being safer than paper records, electronic records make it easier to organise information. They also allow medical workers to scan and import paper files.

Teleconsultation

Teleconsultation uses a device’s video and audio system, and includes the following practices:

  • Teleguidance: for doctors to guide and refer patients at a distance.
  • Telemonitoring: for supervision and monitoring of health parameters.
  • Teleinterconsultation: for exchange of information between doctors.

Prescription

The ability to provide electronic prescriptions online is an important functionality of telemedicine software. 

Beyond the simple prescription, some software can connect doctors and patients directly with pharmacies to identify and purchase medicines.

Management

Similar to ERP systems, telemedicine software helps to standardise administrative tasks, such as accounts payable/receivable, inventory and logistics, and generating financial and accounting reports.

Other types of software for doctors

Medical software isn’t just a helpful tool for doctors when it comes to treating patients.  

Several types of software are dedicated to helping a range of healthcare professionals in a range of areas, such as:

Want to know more about telemedicine tools? Check out our list of telemedicine software.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.