Telemedicine can be defined in a simple way as the application of new technologies in the field of health in a virtual way.
It began to be used in the 1970s in parallel with the development of new computers and mobile phones to reach populations that are located in areas far from urban centers or difficult to access due to geographical circumstances.
Robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Big Data, different mobile applications, among others, are the sustenance of telemedicine to offer medical services to the most isolated groups. It also facilitates the sharing of information between the different health professionals involved in the care of the population.
It should be made clear that this option is only for pathologies or ailments that are not serious and the review at the health center or hospital is not necessary.
Telemedicine is already a reality in several developed countries and, well applied, would mean guaranteeing access to public health and making health systems more efficient.
Storing data is another advantage because then all this information can be used electronically by health professionals and in the various centers where it is necessary.
Remote control of patients. With the appropriate technological means, it is possible to check if people have a fever, how is their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc.
Videoconference. It allows real-time communication between health professionals and the sick person. In this line of action, telecare and teleconsultation are already commonly used to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital or health center.
Teleradiology. It allows the realization of different radiological images that can then be shared immediately with the diagnostic centers.
Teleformation. Health personnel and students can use the system for training, online courses. Students have the opportunity to observe surgical operations live and receive an explanation from the teaching staff about the intervention.
At the international level
The pandemic generated by the coronavirus exponentially increased the use of telemedicine because it was necessary to avoid the collapse of hospitals.
As the first country severely affected by COVID-19, China set the trend in the use of telemedicine, which spread rapidly as soon as the national health system decided to launch it. Thanks to this, each doctor was able to take care of about one hundred patients a day, something impossible with a face-to-face care system.
Before the appearance of this virus, the European Union was already betting on this option in order to improve data storage, speed up diagnoses and increase capacity in disease prevention.
With regard to health products and services in Europe, demand occupies the fifth most important place in its economy and in this sense telemedicine will play a fundamental role in the evolution of health systems. The great congestion suffered by healthcare centers is one of the problems that this technology can alleviate.
In France, since 2018, the public health system includes it. Before the coronavirus, in mid-March 2020, ten thousand weekly teleconsultations were attended, which rose to half a million per week at the beginning of May.
Telemedicine has also proliferated in the UK up to a 1000% increase since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic.
In the United States, one of the countries at the forefront of technological development, it is used quite frequently and the service is focused on maritime areas and the more distant towns of Alaska and New Mexico.
The Autonomous Community of Andalusia is one of the most experienced in Spain in telemedicine with an investment of a little more than 10% of the health budget.
The crisis generated by the coronavirus raised and expanded telecare in all regions of Spain to screen possible cases of coronavirus and try to soften the collapse that hospital centers suffered at the peak of the pandemic.
Due to confinement, there was a significant increase in psychological, pediatric, dermatological and gynecological teleconsultations. Currently, around 80% of the Spanish population uses the Internet to search for information on health issues, although they also go to the corresponding health personnel. And already many health workers communicate via WhatsApp with their patients.
In all situations where people don’t need a scan of physical action, telematic attention is a good way to rationalize resources. Chronic infections, such as HIV, can be treated through this system when patients have good adherence to treatment and their presence in the healthcare center is not essential.
Undoubtedly, telemedicine will increasingly form part of our reality and will generate a profound transformation in health care.
Telemedicine and HIV
With regard to HIV, telemedicine can work very well to educate the population about prevention measures to avoid infection.
It can also be very useful to reduce the stigma that those living with HIV still suffer because it is difficult for them to attend to request information in person.
As it is a technology commonly used by adolescents and young people, it is easily adapted to this group, on which the most emphasis is on HIV prevention and the importance of early diagnosis.
Being a chronic infection, HIV, in certain instances, can be monitored by telemedicine. People with good adherence to antiretroviral therapy and an undetectable viral load rarely need a face-to-face examination. Therefore, for a simple consultation it is not necessary to have to go to the medical center.