What is the purpose of telemedicine

What is telemedicine and where is it used?

More and more things in everyday life are being done online, from shopping to distance learning. Despite or because of this shift of everyday activities into the virtual world, there is also concern with the keyword telemedicine that going to the doctor could be depersonalized.

Telemedicine is a very broad term that is not limited to the Internet. Rather, it is generally about ICT-based medical care. This includes, for example, video telephony with a PC or smartphone, but also forms of therapy with devices specially made for this purpose. Because even if telemedicine is probably first associated with discussions between doctor and patient with the help of modern information technology, it has a significantly larger field of application. This does not always require the simultaneous activity of patient and doctor as in a video call. Remote monitoring of health values, for example for the chronically ill, or the storage of data on special devices and their subsequent analysis are also part of the field of telemedicine.

Telemedicine example: rehabilitation aftercare

One area in which telemedicine is already being used very successfully by some institutions in Germany is rehabilitation aftercare. After the actual rehabilitation, patients are equipped with special devices. These devices are mostly easy to use and do not require an internet connection. This makes them easy to use even for older patients with little affinity for the digital. The corresponding devices can contain a plan with exercises that the patient is already familiar with from rehabilitation. He can do this independently at freely chosen times and does not have to drive to a practice himself. The implementation of the exercises is recorded on video by the device and evaluated. In this way, doctors can not only check the progress, but also provide valuable tips on a regular basis.

Telemedicine in the care of the mentally ill

Another example: its use in therapy for people with mental health problems. Telemedicine can be a valuable aid, especially in psychotherapy. On the one hand, long waiting times can be bridged until inpatient or outpatient therapy can be started. In this difficult phase, patients are not left to their own devices. In addition, there is already a wide range of consulting services that are partially or exclusively carried out online - for example on the internet platform das-beratungsnetz.de.

Studies also show that the online setting enables the face-to-face setting to have a qualitatively equivalent relationship between therapist and patient. In addition, a consultation by e-mail or video conference is a great help in crisis situations and can usually take place immediately or very promptly.

Telemedical care also in rural areas

In principle, telemedicine already offers a number of options for supporting patients. However, telemedical consultation can be particularly important for patients who either do not want to come to a practice with acute illnesses or who live in areas where medical care is not optimal and long distances have to be covered. The shortage of doctors in rural Germany is relatively pronounced: in Lower Saxony alone, many general practitioner positions remain vacant. Against this background, experts see an essential contribution to solving the problem in the expansion of telemedicine.

This does not only apply to the family doctor visit. In general, an expansion of telemedical care would possibly also improve the free choice of doctor in such areas. Because if there is only one doctor - be it a family doctor or a specialist - within a radius of 20 or 30 km, the free choice of doctor is a freedom with no real equivalent. Here, too, rural areas in particular can benefit from telemedicine.

Criticism of telemedicine

Even if the doctors are not on site for telemedicine: Telemedicine is not about completely replacing or abolishing direct contact between doctors and patients. The aim is to make health data available more quickly and to close gaps in supply. This is an important aspect, especially for rural areas. However, gaps in supply can also arise in other areas, such as long waiting times for therapy places or specialist appointments. Even if telemedicine is not yet ready to be consistently transferred into practice in all areas, its diverse potentials are revealed here.