Telemedicine: opportunities and challenges


Author: Colin Kavanagh, Orla Keane, Ciara Farrell and Olivia Mullooly

Telemedicine, telecare and eHealth are becoming common terminology in the health and technology world, but they present many complex legal, technical and medical quandaries which providers and users of these new services have to deal with. There is also an increase in consumer and patient understanding and acceptability of these types of services, due to the fact that many trials and pilots of the services have been implemented over the past ten years, including full commercial offerings of the services. This means that patients, healthcare professionals, telemedicine service providers and government authorities alike must adapt to the growing and evolving landscape of such services. This is not without its challenges as telemedicine is at the crossroads of issues such as health policy, ICT, data protection, licensing, liability and regulatory compliance.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine uses technology to monitor and manage patients’ healthcare, usually from a remote location such as the patient’s home. These services aim to proactively manage healthcare by offering faster reaction times and avoiding costly hospitalisation. Providers in the Irish market have grown from offering online prescriptions to extending a range of services typically associated with a GP, such as the examination of symptoms and the treatment of minor ailments and injuries via an online consultation. Many of these services permit patients to contact their GP via a computer, tablet or smartphone. For example, patients at a Tallaght GP practice are the first in Ireland who can consult their doctor online, using app-based technology called VideoDoc, which is in its pilot stage. There are also various medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucometers and lung capacity monitors which can be used at the patient’s home while regular measurements are made and data is transmitted back to a monitoring base. There, decision support systems feature pre-set alarms, alerts and management care flows.

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