Telediagnosis is an extraordinary development in telemedicine, enabling healthcare providers to diagnose patients remotely. This concept makes healthcare significantly more accessible to patients as they can receive a diagnosis at any time or location. For many patients, going to the doctor in person means taking off work, making a long commute, or potentially exposing themselves to illness when immunocompromised. For this reason, telediagnosis is an instrumental and beneficial tool - but it’s not all perfect. As with any new development, telediagnosis is yet to be perfected, but there are ways to overcome common challenges in order to reap the benefits.
What is Telediagnosis?
Telediagnosis, or remote diagnosis, is enabled by the transmission of physical medical records remotely to a healthcare specialist. The platforms that enable telediagnosis ensure that medical records and images are preserved after being digitized and uploaded so they can be transmitted electronically. As a result, healthcare providers can access and review said records and images to diagnose patients.
Telediagnosis is beneficial as it saves both healthcare providers and patients significant amounts of time while connecting them to individuals outside of their immediate geographic region. Patients seeking a specific specialist, rather than flying across the country to obtain their services, can simply share their digital records and meet virtually, obtaining a diagnosis and forming a treatment plan together. Patients can receive a diagnosis from an expert specialist in a timely manner, ensuring that they have the knowledge and means to get the care they need.
Limitations of Virtual Diagnosis
That being said, telediagnosis is a relatively new concept, and there are still a few misconceptions to address. As with any telehealth service, it is dependent on access to technology and a reliable WIFI network, making users dependent on technology for their healthcare services. Aside from this, providers and patients may be concerned with the accuracy of a telediagnosis, as it is a traditionally in-person practice. Fortunately, with the right telehealth platform, these challenges and more can be overcome - ensuring that the telediagnosis experience is seamless.
Lack of Hands-On Approach
A concern that many healthcare providers have with telediagnosis is the limitations it poses in making an accurate diagnosis. In a traditional diagnosis, patients are present in a practice or hospital with their provider, and providers have access to all preexisting medical records and test results. In contrast, through telediagnosis, providers fear that they will miss important information or symptoms through sight alone in a video meeting. This is a valid concern as most medical conditions cannot be diagnosed or detected through sight alone. As a diagnosis will determine the prescription or treatment that a patient receives, its accuracy is of the utmost importance.
These are all realistic concerns of telediagnosis, but with the right telehealth platform, they can be overcome and proved incorrect. Indeed, most conditions cannot be diagnosed through sight alone, but doctors do not create their diagnosis by merely looking at their patients through a video chat. Instead, healthcare providers carefully review electronic health records (EHR). As EHRs are already stored on the telehealth platform, they are easy to access and locate, ensuring that medical data and images are preserved and organized for quick reference. Additionally, providers can ask their patients questions during their video chat about any ailments and symptoms - just as a provider would do in-person. While telediagnosis may seem like a new and foreign concept, it is almost identical to traditional diagnoses - only more convenient.
Obtaining Real-Time Data and Tests
Another concern that healthcare providers and patients may have concerning telediagnosis is the access to real-time medical data and additional tests. During an in-person diagnosis, providers have the option to perform more tests as needed, even as simple as testing blood pressure, temperature, or weight while having a complete picture of the patient in person. The concern with this is that while remote, patients will be unable to obtain such data themselves or do so inaccurately. If any further testing is needed that requires trained personnel or medical equipment, patients will need to come into the office regardless, proving the virtual visit moot.
Fortunately, if a diagnosis should require real-time medical data, this can be done using a telehealth platform. Many telehealth platforms are compatible with IoT and remote monitoring devices. Patients can then use these devices to track data such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and more, which will then be reported to the platform to be accessed by healthcare providers. This capability eliminates the need for patients to record their own medical statistics manually and thus eliminates the risk of human error.
For more significant tests such as an X-ray, MRI, or blood test, it is true that patients will need to have this done in person, but all necessary testing should be completed before the diagnosis stage. For a diagnosis to be made, this medical information must be collected and reviewed prior - meaning that it will already be available in the telehealth platform during the telediagnosis process. As a result, diagnosis can be performed entirely remotely once all necessary data is collected, and any real-time data needed can be obtained through additional remote medical devices.
Potential of a Misdiagnosis
As with any diagnosis, there is a risk of inaccuracy. There is no concrete way to ensure 100% accuracy of a diagnosis, which is why it is so crucial to work with experienced and trusted healthcare professionals. That being said, as telediagnosis is still a new concept, many fear that it is inaccurate simply because it is unconventional. But, with the right telehealth platform, there are ways to mitigate the risk of a misdiagnosis.
Telehealth platforms are creating a community of healthcare professionals consisting of a variety of specialists and experts. Within this platform, physicians and providers can collaborate with one another to provide accurate and optimized patient care. Through their platform, providers will be able to communicate with one another, sharing images to consult upon. Through this collaboration, several specialists can work together on a patient, ensuring that a diagnosis is verified and agreed upon. Additionally, developments in AI provide physicians with further confirmation of a diagnosis through even more efficient means.
Furthermore, patients have the same access to this community of providers. This means that if a patient is wary of a diagnosis or simply wants to learn more about it, they can utilize their telehealth platform to obtain a second opinion from another provider. With access to such a broad range of providers, patients can get the care and reassurance they need, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their diagnosis and treatment.
Telehealth Platforms Make Telediagnosis Possible
Through telediagnosis, healthcare providers receive the information and test results they need from their patients to conduct an accurate diagnosis while remaining remote. Telediagnosis is a new concept that can be daunting to both patients and providers. Still, it can be just as efficient and accurate as a traditional in-person diagnosis with the right tools. With the right telehealth platform and compatible medical devices, physicians can provide timely, accurate, and confident diagnoses to their patients, ensuring they receive the care and treatment they need.
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