The Internet has forever changed just about every industry's business model. Everything from shopping to banking and advertising has had a major overhaul in the last few years, with digital resources allowing for a more convenient and efficient way of making money. However, it wasn't until recently that the medical industry began to move online.
Telemedicine is a new concept that is sweeping across health care. This is where patients use the camera on their smartphone or computer to basically have a digital conference with a doctor in lieu of a physical examination. Many diseases don’t actually require the doctor to be in the room for a diagnosis, and services like fax and telemedicine are meant to allow medical professionals to cut down on wasted time while also ensuring patient care doesn’t suffer. But just how popular is the idea of communicating with doctors via a video chat, and what does this mean for the industry as a whole?
"Telemedicine has already proven itself to be popular."
Telemedicine is revolutionizing the industry
Although this is a relatively new trend, telemedicine has already proven itself to be popular among the average health care patient. A study conducted by the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that 83 percent of respondents who had used these services believed that they had "received skilled care" through their telemedicine examinations. What's more, a report from Software Advice found that 75 percent of those who had never utilized telemedicine were interested in going through such an examination.
Clearly, both the idea and the practice of telemedicine are popular among most people. There have been many theories behind why this is, with the most popular one having to do with convenience. Many Americans live in rural communities, which generally equates to limited access to health care facilities. Telemedicine allows these people to quickly and effectively diagnose less serious diseases without having to drive 45 minutes to the nearest doctor's office.
Another area of convenience within telemedicine has to do with minor injuries. A small cut may not need stitches from a professional, but someone with no medical training might not know what to do without going to the emergency room. Such an event could be solved by simply calling up a doctor via telemedicine services and asking what the next step should be. In fact, the same Software Advice study found that 84 percent of respondents would rather use telemedicine to solve a minor ailment over going to the emergency room.
Might cause problems for HIPAA
Despite the fact that telemedicine obviously has a lot of support and possible use cases, there is a bit of a problem here concerning the transfer of sensitive patient information, also known as ePHI. Depending on how a particular telemedicine service is set up, doctors may not be able to access patient medical records due to the strict regulatory rules within the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act.
HIPAA has some pretty tight compliance standards surrounding the transfer of medical information, with hefty fines levied against those who ignore them. This means that certain doctors may not be able to access patient history via fax, thereby decreasing their ability to fully diagnose a particular problem.
FoIP can help
Thankfully, there’s a simple answer to HIPAA compliant telemedicine platforms in the form of Fax over IP. Legacy fax systems are widely used throughout medicine in order to safely transport patient information from one doctor to another. Fax over IP (FoIP) uses a similarly HIPAA compliant and secure fax transfer process that has the added bonus of working over the Internet. Rather than printing out a fax, doctors can access medical records right on their smartphone or computer.
This could help to improve telemedicine's effectiveness as a medical tool. With the ability to quickly transfer medical data in a digital context, doctors would have more information about the patient they are currently video chatting with, thereby allowing them to make a more informed decision.
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