There are various populations, communities, and stakeholders that are connected to the topic of Telehealth technologies. Numerous technologies can be utilized to enhance the healthcare provided to patients from a variety of backgrounds. A population is a group of people who reside in a particular area, town, or country. A community is similar in the sense that it is a group of people living in the same place, but they may also have a common characteristic. A stakeholder is a person or a company that has an interest in a particular business.
Some of the populations affected by telehealth are those who live in rural areas with barriers to healthcare related to access to insurance, transportation, or local facilities. In addition, communities that are connected to the topic of interest are patients with chronic illnesses such as Diabetes, and Congestive Heart Failure. A community of people who are homeless, whether it be on the street or in shelters could also benefit from the use of Telehealth technologies. Important stakeholders that would be interested in the use of Telehealth are Doctors, Nurses, Speech Language Pathologists, and Occupational/Physical Therapists that are providing the services. Additionally, insurance companies who provide coverage, hospitals that engage in Telehealth contracts, and third party vendors that are providing various technologies such as sensors and monitors are important stakeholders.
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Interactive Mobile Health and Rehabilitation (mHealth)
An incredible step for telehealth technology is the incorporation of mHealth in order to address health education and public health. The spark of mhealth is promising in that it the potential to prevent health illnesses, particularly in disparate communities. Though a lot of research has been conducted on the use of SMS text messaging as a form of mHealth, further exploration must be done on more recent technologies such as iPads or tablets (Anderson-Lewis, Darville, Mercado, Howell, & Maggio, 2018). In a study completed in 2018, researchers looked at “develop[ing] an adaptive mHealth system capable of supporting long-term self-management and adapting to the various needs and conditions” (Setiawan, et al., 2018) of persons with chronic conditions and disabilities. It has been shown that persons with chronic conditions are at an increased risk of developing secondary complications that are preventable with the proper treatment and support of healthcare professionals. This is because these individuals have very diverse needs that may change over time in addition to a challenge engaging in long-term self-management.
In an effort to enhance the self-management skills of these individuals, an mHealth system called iMHere was developed. Through the study, a set of mobile applications were created to allow the patient to better understand their diagnosis, increase communication between the patient and provider, and provide “personalized and adaptive interventions...empowering these individuals to be more independent” (Setiawan, et al., 2018). This mobile health option allows patients to track their nutrition and exercise, establish goals, and access their personal health record. In addition, it allows for confidential communication between the patient and provider through a 2-way secure communication protocol (Setiawan, et al., 2018). Results showed that through this app, patients demonstrated a greater compliance in taking medications, an increase in self-tracking capabilities, and a better adherence to intervention management. By empowering patients with chronic diseases to have more control over the management of their diagnoses, secondary complications can be prevented.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
One of the most effective uses of telehealth technology includes that of utilizing specific sensors in order to monitor patient status, progress throughout care, or even the diagnosis of a medical issue. With the ability to allow patients to stay in the environment most comfortable for them, patients can feel more engaged in their healthcare, with the hopes of increasing access for those who travel significantly for appointments. As mentioned by a study done in 2018, there are various devices available to aid the patient population in need of diagnosis of sleep apnea. (Penzel, Schobel & Fietze, 2018) As simple as the smartphone tool without the use of external sensors acting as a consumer product in order to monitor sleep, to the newer more complex devices that can be utilized by healthcare practitioners. With the use of a polysomnography system, the patient can be in the home while data is recorded to flash memory and transmitted via wireless network (Penzel, Schobel & Fietze, 2018. An even better option involves non-contact sleep recording of respirations, heartbeat, and body movements installed at the bedside while using radar frequencies to detect small or large movements through doppler technology, a blanket, and recording through an actiwatch system. With the addition and creation of technologies in the world of telehealth, patients can potentially be given a more timely diagnosis (or lack thereof) and seek follow up appropriately all without leaving their home. There is definitely a need for additional research and data to be collected surrounding these breakthrough devices, but they have the potential to be extremely beneficial to patient-centered care.
non-obstrusive contact-free sleep recording with validated tools