Often, telemedicine is seen as the domain of the advanced, the technologically savvy, and the well-to-do. People assume that something so "sophisticated" as e-health, remote visits, or telemedicine-supported medical collaboration couldn't work for their clinic, their context, or their patients.
In fact, we've had the experience that, as with many disruptive technologies, telemedicine has first benefitted the under-resourced, the underserved, and the marginalized. Our journey with telemedicine started in the late 90s, at one of the poorest elementary schools in our county. Originally, we were just looking for a simple way for kids -- whose parents couldn't miss hours of work and still pay the bills -- to get specialized medical care. We ended up using early digital cameras and distance learning lines to piece together a telemedicine program, in what would eventually become an early version of iClickCare.
All of which is to say that in our experience, telemedicine can be a simple thing. It can be a human thing. And it can certainly work in under-resourced environments.
So when we saw a recent article over at Fierce Health IT about how prisons are increasingly adopting telemedicine, it made perfect sense to us. Prisons, of course, have different parameters than most care settings. And they may even have different goals in the care of their patients. While they manage their lives, in a sense they are also providing managed care. But we all share common challenges in providing good, safe, efficient care for our patients -- and telemedicine is a great tool for many of us.
So here are 3 reasons that prisons use telemedicine and that you might want to consider it, too:
- Telemedicine removes downsides of travel. For prisoners, the ride to the hospital or to a specialist can be an expensive endeavor and present risk of escape. And while most patients don't have the escape-avoidance challenge, travel to faraway specialists and providers can be costly, mean missed work and school, and be highly disruptive of the healing process.
- Telemedicine saves money. We've repeatedly seen high ROIs (both financially and in terms of quality of care) for organizations and providers that adopt telemedicine practices. As Dr. Michael Moore experienced: "During a 3 month period, 70 patients were treated solely using iClickCare with an overall healing rate of 93% and an estimated savings of $24,000 in transportation costs alone." The prisons are seeing the same impacts, which is why these programs are increasingly common across the country.
- Telemedicine can make both the patient's and the provider's lives easier. Beyond just cost savings, the trauma and "run around" of caring for a chronic condition -- managing schedules, managed care, coordinating appointments, waiting for consults, and sharing information -- can be exhausting for both patient and provider. Telemedicine, especially a hybrid store-and-forward model that doesn't demand everyone be available at once, can make everyone's lives easier.
If you're wondering if Hybrid Store-and-Forward Telemedicine is right for you, get our free Quick Guide:
Image courtesy of franekn on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.