One of the prominent health care developments over the last two decades has been the spread of telemedicine. New mobile and other technologies have encouraged the use of telehealth techniques in a variety of medical specialties. The Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare features several studies relating to this trend. (JTT Articles) (All the articles referenced in this commentary can be accessed via this link)
The first article examined telehealth (remote monitoring or telephone support) as used for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There were only nine studies in the meta-analysis and only four were randomized clinical trials, one of which was deemed to be of poor quality. Nonetheless, although the results in the trials were mixed, on balance, telehealth appeared to result in lower utilization than usual care and appeared to be equally accepted by patients. The overall economic effects were not clear from this set of studies.
The second study described used of telepsychiatry for children, based on a network consisting of a central children’s hospital which served a number of remote areas. The study found that the telepsychiatry services were well-accepted by the patients and appeared to produce acceptable clinical results, but contained little specific utilization or health outcomes data and no comparative information. The third study examined the potential of telemedicine for speech therapy for students. This was a small study but the results indicate that the telemedicine interventions were as effect as on-site therapy and that patient and parent acceptance was high.
The continued exploration of telemedicine’s applicability to numerous clinical needs should be encouraged, since most studies show that it is well-accepted, improves access and probably results in at least equal quality and some cost savings, particularly when you account for travel costs, lost work time and other factors.