Is Telemedicine the Future?
Telemedicine has become a buzzword in healthcare. The concept is not new. But many providers are using technology to reinvent care. So is telemedicine the future?
Exponential growth in telemedicine over the past few years has been astounding. Spurred in part by the pandemic, physicians and patients have realized the benefits of these services. Telemedicine leverages technology to provide clinical services and maximize patient outcomes. In many ways, it is changing healthcare.
Changes in healthcare call for nurses to adapt to new technologies. Here is why some say telemedicine is the future and how it is evolving as a specialty in nursing.
Telemedicine and the Future of Nursing
If you haven’t used or provided telehealth yourself, then surely you know someone who has. Telemedicine services have exploded. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that telemedicine encounters increased 154% last year.
And the growth isn’t slowing. Nurses should be prepared to embrace telemedicine. Recently, a research firm estimated growth to reach seven-fold by 2025.
Telemedicine services carry many benefits for healthcare providers.
- Remote care can help mitigate resource shortages, such as staffing and supplies
- Virtual encounters promote safety and social distancing
- Telemedicine enhances access to care, allowing patients and professionals to meet from anywhere.
Telemedicine serves patients too. They can see their doctor without fighting traffic or sitting in waiting rooms. Two-thirds of those surveyed would be willing to try virtual care.
What is Telemedicine
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines telemedicine as the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. The physician is in one location, and they use video, web, or other technology to deliver care to a patient somewhere else.
Thanks to recent advances, patients can now see their doctor through secure audio or video platforms designed for confidentiality and privacy.
Telemedicine is a cost-effective, time-saving option for many who need to see a doctor. And this new medical specialty is here to stay.
Where Nurses Fit in Telemedicine
So, where do nurses fit in? Nurses are educationally and professionally prepared to provide a broad scope of skills and services across the continuum of healthcare.
According to the American Telehealth Association, telehealth nursing is a tool for delivering nursing care remotely to improve efficiency and patient access to healthcare. Their position statement of telehealth nursing highlights a call to action for nurses utilizing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to move from passive data collectors to becoming system designers and shapers of telemedicine in healthcare.
Recently the peer-reviewed Nursing Journal published an article to increase awareness regarding telehealth nursing by defining the service and its role in healthcare. It said that “the digital age has opened the door” for technologies like telemedicine to provide major benefits in the healthcare industry. The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) recognizes telehealth as an integral part of the practice for every ambulatory care nurse.
Nursing professionals from every setting are going to see more opportunities to use digital technologies to provide care. The American Nurses Association (ANA) affirms that connected health technologies continue to change. Nurses are leading the charge using tools for innovation in healthcare delivery while maintaining professional standards and patient safety. Hence they published the ANA Core Principles on Connected Health to guide nurses in safe practice.
Some of the guiding principles for nurses in telemedicine include:
- Nursing and other healthcare professions are responsible for developing their competencies to ensure safe, effective, and competent care delivery
- Nurses must take safeguards with the transmission of electronic information and communication
- Documentation requirements should be consistent with requirements applicable to all other patient encounters
- Nurses must inform patients in telemedicine encounters about the process, inherent risks and benefits, and rights and responsibilities; providers should maintain electronic consent
- Providers should continuously update policies governing practices
In summary, nurses can expect telemedicine growth to continue. As digital technologies and healthcare practices change, nurses can embrace the change to grow and improve their practice. Staying up to date on trends and compliance can help keep nurses and their patients safe and happy.
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