What is telemedicine and how does it work?

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Joel Fulleda
What is telemedicine and how does it work?

The term has been around for some time telemedicine it has come into common use, but many of us are not sure what it really means. Telemedicine is the complex of technologies and tools that concern medical services, ranging from forming an opinion during consultation, to diagnosis, prescriptions, treatment and patient monitoring, all carried out remotely via an Internet connection. But how does telemedicine actually work? And who can use it?

The history of telemedicine
First of all, let's review the history a bit: telemedicine, albeit in its most primitive form, has existed since remote connections have existed: in the United States already in the 70s some doctors used a two-way television set to send details of neurological exams for the benefit of their medical students. Or, NASA was a pioneer in research on the subject, building systems of remote monitoring of clinical conditions (heart rate and other values) of astronauts engaged in space missions. In short, the possibility of transmitting data gradually more and more sophisticated and in an ever faster way has allowed, over time, even medicine to 'work' remotely.

Over time, what it was just a tool for exchange data between hospitals and doctors instead it has become a real communication channel, diagnosis and therapy between doctor and patient. All this is obviously facilitated by the widespread diffusion of computers, tablets and portable devices, which have acquired increasingly sophisticated functions, and by a new generation of sensors connected to the network that have literally populated our lives. Let's think about portable blood glucose meters controlled via app, or to modern smartphone heart rate monitors, or to platforms that offer videoconferencing tools directly with your doctor and reduce the number of visits to be made in person or to digital medical records, a real clinical documentation that can be consulted anytime and anywhere by healthcare professionals.

Pros and cons of telemedicine
For a better understanding of telemedicine it is therefore important to thoroughly consider the various pros and cons of this technology.

- An easier access to specialists for consultations
- Cost reduction health care
- Improve quality of care of the patient
- Follow-ups that do not require an in-person appointment with saving of time for doctors and patients

- It is not possible to completely replace in-person meetings between doctors and patients
- Not all pathologies they adapt to Telemedicine
- The initial investments in technology they can be elevated
- Resistance of some categories of doctors and patients the use of new technologies

Telemedicine in Italy
it is spreading very slowly: many hospitals have given rise to pilot projects and experiments, however "an integrated platform of knowledge, skills and knowledge shared by stakeholders, institutions, research bodies and industries is still missing to share a long but absolutely indispensable process in a health that is changing", in the words of the president of the Italian Association of Digital Health and Telemedicine. Instead, there are many software and tools created by private companies in this field: the hope is that - as often happens in Italy - the private sector will act as a driving force for the public, especially if you think about significant savings that telemedicine could lead to SSN if it were adopted in a widespread manner.

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