Telemedicine is defined as the delivery of healthcare services using telecommunications. It helps doctors evaluate and treat patients without an in-person visit. For instance, if a patient who lives in a remote area wants to avail the services of a doctor from another city, their additional expenditure on travel and accommodation may be more than the consultation charges, making such a visit prohibitive. Telemedicine helps in minimizing these additional expenses by delivering clinical care through live video conferences.
Setting up a telemedicine unit
Telemedicine is currently a revolution in the field of healthcare. Statistics project that there will be 7 million telemedicine users worldwide by 2018, which is approximately about 180% increase to that of 2017. Therefore, it becomes important for doctors and physicians to incorporate telemedicine into their daily practice. Setting up an efficient and reliable telemedicine unit requires knowledge about the hardware, software, and personnel required and finances to cover costs.
1. Equipment and software
The equipment required to set up a Telemedicine Unit include
Telemedicine Carts: Telemedicine carts contain monitors, cameras, speakers and microphones, which help doctors to meet their patients virtually. A good telemedicine cart features pneumatic height adjustment, flexible handles for easy movement of the cart, antimicrobial work surfaces, high definition cameras, and mounted monitors with which to view the patient. The most common ones in use are:
Patient Assessment Terminal (PAT): The PAT is a permanent wall-mount and a terminal for telemedicine consultation. It uses cameras to monitor the patients.
Clinical Assistant: It is a basic, lightweight, portable terminal and is the best choice for organizations that are just beginning to offer telemedicine services because of its basic setup.
Portable TeleClinic: Portable TeleClinic is a portable box equipped with an integrated tablet for communications and medical devices to conduct clinical examinations.
Additional read: Top practice management tools for doctors
Telemedicine is incomplete without medical devices which are used to evaluate and diagnose medical conditions. These portable medical devices can be added to the telemedicine carts. They are as follows:
- Examination camera
- Retinal camera
- Vital sign monitor
Telemedicine software provides an exemplary user interface through which patients can chat with the doctor. Some of the software available for telemedicine are:
A good telemedicine team is essential to deliver the best quality of healthcare services and should comprise of the following members:
IT representative: The IT representative takes care of the telemedicine devices, keeps the equipment and software updated, and trains the personnel who care for the equipment during a virtual visit.
Clinical team representative: The clinical team representative is responsible for assessing the patient’s clinical condition, and planning the patient’s clinical management.
Inventory manager: The inventory manager’s role is to maintain and track all other equipment (apart from the hardware and software looked after by the IT representative) and coordinate the installation and de-installation process. The inventory manager also deals with the financial aspects involved in running the telemedicine unit.
Additional read: Electronic health records
The cost of setting up a telemedicine unit depends on the types of services provided. The overall cost might look like this:
|Medical Devices||Rs. 4,50,000|
|Hardware packaging||Rs. 15,00,000|
Setting up a telemedicine unit can be profitable in terms of revenue but does need an initial investment of approximately Rs. 25-30 lakh. These funds can be sourced through your savings or a business loan explicitly designed for doctors by Bajaj Finserv.
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