Telehealth refers to healthcare services delivered by way of information communication technologies or ICTs in a remote fashion without the necessity of the patient and the provider being in the same location physically. While the provider remains at the healthcare facility or the clinic and the patient remains at home far away; the two are linked via a video portal that enables them to communicate and see each other. This way, the provider is able to make assessments and deliver prescriptions and advice that can then be implemented by caregivers who are with the patient at home (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2017). Telehealth includes telemedicine and telenursing meaning that both clinicians and nurses can make use of telehealth to overcome barriers to healthcare access and deliver much needed primary health care services to vulnerable populations around the world (AAFP, 2021). The advent of revolutionary ICT innovations coupled with the rapid development and sophistication of smartphones is one of the reasons why telehealth is becoming more and more preferable for delivering healthcare services to remote marginalized communities and patients in areas with limited resources. The purpose of this paper is to outline the impact of telehealth in the global healthcare scene as well as potential barriers to practice. Global Telehealth Essay
The Impact of Telehealth on Healthcare on a Global Scale
Social determinants of health (SDOH) are factors that determine the health status of a population. They are factors that surround a person and influence their lives from the time that they are born up to the time that they die. One of the most important SDOH that is relevant in this discussion is access to quality healthcare services. On a global scale, access to healthcare services for many people is hindered by yet other SDOH such as poverty (low socio-economic status) and limited or no educational achievement (Powell, 2016). However, with the rapid development in telecommunications and ICTs, telehealth is rapidly becoming a solution to the lack of access to healthcare for vulnerable communities and populations around the globe (Kim & Zuckerman, 2019). In developing countries and areas with resources that are limited, telehealth can be useful in reaching poor populations and communities in an affordable and cheap way. This is because the patients will not need to incur travel, accommodation, and other costs to access the care.
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In many countries there is no Universal Health Care or UHC. This includes even developed countries such as the United States where healthcare is very expensive (Sultz & Kroth, 2018). In such a scenario, telehealth will be useful in realizing equitable access to healthcare for the poor. In the rest of the world; countries with weak health systems, those with limited healthcare resources, and those experiencing humanitarian situations can benefit immensely from telehealth through the formation of an integrated and interconnected global health network facilitated by functionalities such as teleconferencing (Kim & Zuckerman, 2019). For instance, teleconferencing technology can be used by surgeons in the United Kingdom to instruct their colleagues in Ukraine to perform surgical procedures that the Ukrainian surgeons have never performed before but that the UK surgeons are competent in. All this will happen in real time and the patients will benefit from the UK expertise without the surgeons or the patients having to incur costs to travel either to the UK or Ukraine. This is the essence of telehealth.
Potential Barriers to Practice
Despite the promise of telehealth on a global scale, there are still potential barriers that may hinder practice that one has to contend with. The first one is poor Internet connectivity. In areas with poor Internet connectivity, it may be problematic to carry out a telehealth program successfully as the audiovisual link will keep on being interrupted. The other barrier is the threat to breach of confidentiality of patient information and data (CMS, 2018). This is when unauthorized access by unscrupulous and criminal elements is gained to patient data and information.
Telehealth which includes telemedicine and telenursing has great promise for healthcare access on a global scale. This has been made possible by the rapid development of ICTs and telecommunication technology. However, there are still potential barriers to implementation and practice that have to be addressed and mitigated. These include proper Internet connectivity and security of patient data and information.
American Academy of Family Physicians [AAFP] (2021). What’ the difference between telemedicine and telehealth? https://www.aafp.org/news/media-center/kits/telemedicine-and-telehealth.html
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] (2018). HIPAA basics for providers: Privacy, security, and breach notification rules. https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNProducts/Downloads/HIPAAPrivacyandSecurity.pdf
Kim, T., & Zuckerman, J.E. (2019). Realizing the potential of telemedicine in global health. Journal of Global Health, 9(2), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.09.020307
McGonigle, D., & Mastrian, K.G. (2017). Nursing informatics and the foundation of knowledge, 4th ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Powell, D.L. (2016). Social determinants of health: Cultural competence is not enough. Creative Nursing, 24(1), 5-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1078-4522.214.171.124
Sultz, H.A., & Kroth, P.J. (2018). Sultz and Young’s health care USA: Understanding its organization and delivery, 9th ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning.