Telehealth utilizes electronic data and telecommunications to support long-distance, clinician-based patient and professional health education, public health and health administration (HHS, 2013). Components of telehealth include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, terrestrial and wireless communications (HHS, 2013). Telehealth systems such as the Health Resources and Services Administration aims to increase and improve the use of telehealth to meet the needs of its underserved patients by (HHS, 2013):
•Developing relationships within HRSA and other Federal agencies, states and private organizations to create telehealth projects.
•Administers ...view middle of the document...
Telehealth services make it more efficient to manage ongoing health care. A good example of this involves the Veterans Administration (VA). In 2003, the VA implemented a series of home telehealth services aimed at assisting patients with chronic conditions that prefer living at home (HHS, 2013). The program includes videophones, digital cameras used for telewound care, teledermatology and vital sign monitors (HHS, 2013). By 2007 this program had enrolled 30,000 patients and reached a 19% decrease in hospital visits and miscellaneous cost savings (HHS, 2013). Success within this VA telehealth system integrated health care into daily life rather than limiting contact with the medical system to a small number of office visits, the dynamics of treatment changes and to emphasize self-maintenance (HHS, 2013). From its implementation in 2003, other telehealth programs have shown a beneficial outcome resulting from frequent phone communication with a nurse in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression and hypertension (HHS, 2013).
Technological tools that could be used to improve telehealth systems aim to improve quality and efficiency of patient care (HHS, 2013). Advances in information technology (IT) bear great promise for assisting rural populations and rural providers overcome many of the problems of distance and personnel shortages (HHS, 2013). The implementation and utilization rates of many critical health IT systems tend to be lower in rural areas than its urban counterparts (HHS, 2013). More than 95% of critical care access hospitals use administrative health IT systems but less than a third uses health IT for clinical care (HHS, 2013). Rural populations face numerous barriers in adopting clinical health IT to include limited access to funding and infrastructure, lack of workforce knowledge in IT and challenges in gaining public acceptance (HHS, 2013). As such, it is additionally believed that the smaller rural practice would benefit significantly from the support of very few key personnel which includes a physician health IT leader or a dedicated IT subject matter expert whose contribution bears a great positive impact upon the program (HHS, 2013).
Tele-Health is a key component in ensuring access to health services in isolated geographic areas, as well as underserved communities, across the United States. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population resides in rural areas; they tend to be older, have lower incomes, and higher rates of certain chronic diseases (Institute of Medicine, 2012). Two technological tools that have contributed to the Tele-Health phenomenon are the use of mobile phones (“mHealth”) and the digital images using the internet.
There are multiple phone based applications available for healthcare workers and healthcare consumers that have paved the way for mobile phone use with diagnostics, telemedicine, research, reference libraries and interventions...