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Telecommunication Technology & Delivery of Health Services

Telecommunication Technology - Telemedicine

One of the major challenges facing the healthcare system is provision of quality medical care to a large section of the population, which does not have access to the medical personnel due to geographic limitations and other socioeconomic barriers. However, information technology has offered the potential to affect the type of information and knowledge available to patients and consumers (Davis & LaCour, 2014). Growth and proliferation of the Internet-accessible sources of information have significantly modified the role of health services providers and patients. In order to overcome geographic barriers to provision of health services, technology has been significantly adopted in the healthcare system and its wide range of array has demonstrated as an effective way of overcoming specific barrier care, particularly in remote areas (Davis & LaCour, 2014). Therefore, it is apparent that the use of technology has significantly transformed delivery of healthcare services. The paper will analyze and evaluate utilization of innovative systems and patient care technology is the delivery of healthcare services.

Telemedicine

In the last few decades, hospitals have strived to extend their health services to remote areas. As a result, application of telemedicine has spread rapidly in the healthcare sector and has now become integrated into on-going operations of hospitals, private physicians, specialty departments, consumer homes, and workplaces (Capello, Naimoli, & Pili, 2014). Telemedicine is the use of medical information that is exchanged from one side to the other through the use of electronic communications to enhance the patient’s clinical health status. It encompasses a wide range of applications and services that include the use of email, two-way video channels, wireless tools, as well as other forms of telecommunication technology.

The Use of Telemedicine

The use of telemedicine in healthcare services delivery is usually based on two concepts: synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (store- and- forward). Through these two concepts, it is usually possible to provide healthcare services to individuals in different geographical localities. However, real-time telemedicine requires both a patient and a physician to be at the communication link at the same time, thus allowing real-time interaction to take place. In real-time telemedicine, the use of video-conferencing equipment represents the most common technology used in the provision of healthcare (Capello et al., 2014). Besides, there is medical equipment attached to video conferencing equipment that facilitates patient-physician interaction. For instance, a tele-otoscope permits the remote medical personnel to view the inside of the patient's ear while the tele-stethoscope enables the physician to listen to the patient’s heartbeat. In addition, telemedicine is also achieved through an asynchronous concept that involves acquiring medical information and then transmitting the data to the medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline (Capello et al., 2014). The concept is considered beneficial, especially to individuals of low socioeconomic status since it does not require both physician’s and patient’s presence at the same time. It is usually common in specialties such as pathology, radiology, and dermatology.

Barriers to Telemedicine Adoption

Although the use of telemedicine in the healthcare system continues to grow, there are numerous barriers that continue to hinder its adoption and use in delivery of healthcare services. The use of telemedicine, especially video-conferencing, requires a high bandwidth internet connection. However, most areas lack high-speed Internet connection that supports the use of some of the telemedicine functionalities (Capello et al., 2014). Since remote healthcare service delivery requires high-speed connection, many rural hospitals and patients lack access to an adequate network infrastructure essential to establishing a proper telemedicine connection. Besides, there are a number of legal issues that affect the adoption and use of telemedicine. Such issues largely focus on the uncertainty in regard to services reimbursement, multistate licensure, as well as malpractice liability. Such aspects continue to hinder the adoption and use of telemedicine despite the presence of numerous promising bills in the Congress (Capello et al., 2014). Furthermore, there have been some issues of technology comfort where the end-user is uncomfortable with the technology, which is an aspect that makes it difficult to use this technology. Since the whole industry has for long focused on face-to-face delivery of health services where real-time collaboration has been impossible, changing such mindsets has become an impediment toward the adoption of telemedicine as a core part of health services delivery (Capello et al., 2014).

Internet-Based Health Information from Patient to Primary Care Provider (PCP)

Internet has increasingly become a useful source of information for the patient. According to the research conducted by the American Life Project, approximately 81 percent of American adults search health-related topics on the Internet. Though the use of the Internet has facilitated creation, dissemination, and accessibility of the health information, the infinite bound of cyberspace has resulted in addition of unchecked, disorganized, and misleading information that could be detrimental to the consumer’s health (Davis & LaCour, 2014). Many medical practitioners believe health information on the Internet to be problematic since they feel it generates misinformation and an inclination towards dangerous self-diagnosis among patients (Goldberg, 2010). However, other studies have shown that patients using the Internet are often more compliant, experience better medical outcomes, and ask a specific question during their appointment (Davis & LaCour, 2014). However, it is increasingly important to ensure that patients obtain appropriate information from credible websites that offer medical information.

Recommended Website for Individual with Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most common non-communicable diseases that affect women and ranks 14th in frequency in the USA. According to recent data, for the period between 2008 and 2011, the incidence rate for the cervical cancer increased by 8.1 cases per 100,000 women every year. In 2012, approximately 12,200 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer (Sultz & Young, 2014). Due to the increased number of cervical cancer cases, awareness and demand for information have been on the rise. However, there is a number of websites that provide credible information. Such sites include Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus, and National Cancer Institute’s websites. National Cancer Institute’s website provides updated information that is based on dedicated research, hence providing credible information (Davis, 2013). Furthermore, the information is provided in a user-friendly language that is understandable by an individual without medical knowledge. MedlinePlus pages consist of carefully prepared web sources with health information for more than 900 health topics, including cervical cancer. Furthermore, it includes detailed information with numerous links to over 4,000 articles about the disease, test, symptoms, and treatment (Davis, 2013). MayoClinic’s website provides proven medical information from more than 3,300 physicians, researchers, and scientists from the Mayo Clinic who share their knowledge and expertise about various diseases.

Patient Education on the Internet

Health information is very important since it empowers consumers, thus permitting them to make important health decisions. However, it is essential to educate the patient on the most appropriate way of getting credible information (Khoumbati, Dwivedi, Srivastava, & Lal, 2010). The patient needs to seek information or journals with an identifiable source or author. Besides, the credibility of medical information is usually enhanced if it is provided by a medical institution, an institution of higher learning, or a government body. Such entities bring together medically knowledgeable personnel who publish verified information. Moreover, it is essential for the patient to check information in the publication that has been peer-reviewed by a panel of medical professionals, which is an aspect that adds credibility to the information (Khoumbati et al., 2010). Furthermore, the patient needs to avoid information without any identifiable publishers unless it is supported by information from other credible sources. The accuracy of medical information is largely based on supporting empirical evidence.

Criteria for a Reputable Health Information Website

There are a number of parameters used to assess credibility of a website providing health-related information (Goldberg, 2010). Assessing the credibility of the website is essential since the content on the internet is usually unregulated. It is essential to determine accuracy of the information presented. The information should be based on sound medical investigation and it should be possible to verify the information through another source. Besides, the source used needs to be cited, which makes it possible to determine accuracy of the information provided. It also essential to determine the authority of the website based on the publisher's reputation and credentials (Goldberg, 2010). For instance, an article published by the Mayo clinic carries more authority than Wikipedia. Moreover, the information needs to be complete, objective, updated and structured in a way that reflects different perspectives of the issues under investigation.

Personal Health Record (PHR)

Personal health record (PHRs) is consumer-centric instruments that are used by individuals to communicate with their health services provider in the management of their own health. It documents individual’s or family member’s personal information, health condition, medicines, health care provider, medical tests, and special needs as a part of the person’s medical history (Al-Ubaydli, 2011). The alliance for nursing informatics emphasizes the use of personal health records as an element of reducing medical errors and enhancing the quality of care, accessibility, and efficiency in the health care system. There is a wide range of benefits associated with the use of personal medical records (PHR).

Benefits of a Personal Health Record (PHR)

Maintaining a personal health record is beneficial since it permits the physician to get individual’s accurate medical records. It permits better patient-physician interaction, as well as with other medical personnel such as a pharmacist and nurses. It is apparent that most people find it difficult to remember exactly treatment they have received throughout the years and when it occurred particularly. As a result, this makes the doctor repeat medical tests unnecessarily (Al-Ubaydli, 2011). The use of PHR saves a lot of time and money and permits the physician to access information that shows changes in the individual’s health. For individuals with a chronic illness, maintaining an individual health record makes it possible to track symptoms and progress on individual medical conditions. It is usually essential when an individual has been seeing a different medical specialist, which makes it possible for a different physician to have a point of reference (Khoumbati et al., 2010). Studies indicate that patients using PHRs have been able to manage diabetes between clinic visits via consultations with their health services providers. Patients have also been able to learn how lifestyle choices affect diabetes by using the system (Al-Ubaydli, 2011).

PHR permits access to the patient’s information during medical emergencies. PHR usually contains information about allergies, confirmed diseases, and a list of medications. In case of a medical emergency, such information can be accessed by another person, thus quickening delivery of life-saving care (Al-Ubaydli, 2011). Furthermore, it has been established that adoption of PHRs in medical guidelines for health management improves consumers’ health behaviors such as regular exercise, dietary changes, and improved medical compliance.

Barriers to Personal Health Records (PHR) Adoption

Although health care associations and alliances emphasize the need to adopt and maintain health personal records, a number of barriers have been found to slow down the adoption process. There has been a concern regarding the accuracy and reliability of the data when patients can enter the system and update the data (Khoumbati et al., 2010). For instance, a study conducted on integrated PHR in San Francisco has revealed that laboratory results and the list of medication were incomplete and inaccurate (El Emam, 2013). As a result, it has been recommended that patients must be able to review and ascertain information provided and alert the health provider in case of discrepancies. However, such data discrepancies limit the adoption and use of PHRs (El Emam, 2013).

Data privacy and security have been critical issues in maintenance of PHRs and restrict the use of such records in health care. Individuals without PHR have been concerned about the privacy of their health information if it were to be in PHRs. Furthermore, breast cancer patients have been skeptical about credibility and privacy of the PHR system since it lacks a clear and concise privacy policy and a consent form (El Emam, 2013). Furthermore, the digital divide and literacy-related concerns have limited the use of PHRs, especially among individuals who have a low computer and health literacy.

Required Safety and Security Provisions for PHRs

One of the key impediments to the adoption and use of Personal Health Records (PHRs) revolves around data privacy and security. There has been an increasing need to regulate how patient data are handled and shared within the health care industry. In response, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health Act (HITECH) has expanded privacy and security protections of the HIPAA Act to the PHR providers (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). However, the HITECH offers many uncertainties regarding PHRs. Hence, most privacy policies of the PHR system fail to provide an in-depth description of security measures essential to safeguard patient data. Therefore, it is essential for the privacy rule to regulate how individuals’ health data are held by the HIPAA-covered entities to avoid misuse of these data (Morrison & Furlong, 2014). Besides, it is essential for the HITECH to expand an individual’s rights in regard to their health information to ensure that individuals can gather information from multiple sources. Ethically, health providers are warned against inappropriate access of the PHR data by the code of ethics. According to the American Nurses Association, nurses have a duty to protect the patient’s confidentiality (Morrison & Furlong, 2014).

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is apparent that the integration of technology in the delivery of health care services has changed the way care is delivered to patients. It is now possible to provide a wide range of medical services through telemedicine, which makes it possible to avail such services to remote areas. Furthermore, technology has increased patients’ access to information, which allows them to manage their medical conditions better. However, there is a need to educate consumers on the criteria of searching medical information only on accredited websites in order to prevent their access to unverified information that could have detrimental outcomes in case of self-diagnosis and self-medication.