What is the future of telemedicine?
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What is the future of telemedicine?

In order for the healthcare industry to continue making marked improvements to human life, physicians need to embrace technology. This, after all, is what the medical field has been doing for thousands of year – integrating emerging ideas into their practices to see what kind of better outcomes can be achieved. In today's highly connected age, the tools might be more advanced, but the idea remains the same.

For many healthcare organizations, one of the biggest question, closely following how they can digitize their document management systems, has been what place telemedicine has in the hospital. This category of medical technology allows doctors to communicate with patients over long distances and even gather certain vital information about their well-being, including data about blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Despite the benefits, however, the use of telemedicine has largely been limited to helping individuals who live in remote areas or experience mobility issues.

InformationWeek noted that in a recent editorial for Telemedicine and eHealth, Rashid Bashshur, director of telemedicine at the University of Michigan Health System, explained that if telemedicine tools were integrated with electronic health records, it is possible that hospitals could significantly boost levels of care, especially if used accountable care organizations (ACOs), which work on a model of tying provider reimbursements to specific quality and cost metrics.

When InformationWeek interviewed Bashshur, he explained that these technologies could be successfully brought together if doctors begin using electronic health records for their virtual interactions with patients and then send that data to another file – a personal health record (PHR). The PHR would be viewable both by medical professionals and the patient so that all parties could gain stronger insights. Bashshur also suggested this second record system would be viewable by other providers who work with the patient, a capability that is limited with standard digitized health records.

Bashshur told the source that there would be challenges to making such a system work, one of which would be avoiding swamping doctors with too much data. Indicators stemming from home monitoring tools would need to be properly organized, and a system would need to be devised to ensure physicians are seeing the most important updates.

One sign that changes like this could be on the way is that there seems to be a growing interest in healthcare IT, especially as it relates to telemedicine. GigaOM pointed out that in StartupHealth's measurement of medical investments for April 2013, the organization found that sensors received $79 million in funding. These technologies can play a critical role in making certain telemedicine implementations work. Additionally, another recent study by InMedica estimated that the remote monitoring market will grow by 55 percent in 2013.

As IT experts continue to improve their offerings, one thing is certain – medical practices will continue making strides toward integrating care-boosting tools in their organizations. If public and professional interest is any indicator, telemedicine may be the next of these technologies to be widely integrated in the modern healthcare system.