The Telemedicine role during the health emergency has been fundamental, a period in which, thanks to the help of digital technologies, it has been possible to provide medical assistance and access to treatment, for the benefit of people with health conditions or those in need of assistance, no matter where they live. The data relating to the use of Telemedicine in the medical context, reconfirms the necessity to continue with the use of digital technology in the field of health 4.0, for the provision of remote services, especially for those suffering from chronic diseases, considered fragile and/or not self-sufficient.
Index of contents
- Definition of Telemedicine
- The aims of Telemedicine
- Telemedicine and opportunities
- The main areas of application
- Telemedicine and legislation
Definition of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is defined, according to the national guidelines of the Italian Ministry of Health, as a “method of providing health care services, through the use of innovative technologies, in particular Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), in situations where the health professional and the patient (or two professionals) are not in the same location “. The Telemedicine service involves the secure transmission of medical information and data in the form of texts, sounds and images for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and subsequent control of the patients’ conditions. It integrates traditional healthcare services to improve its effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness, for the benefit of those who request it.
The aims of Telemedicine
- Secondary prevention: health care services for the benefit of people considered at risk or suffering from chronic diseases (diabetes or heart disease), forced to undergo constant monitoring of vital parameters or receive continuous updates on the therapy to be performed;
- Diagnosis: services useful for providing information to the assisted person, to support him in carrying out a correct diagnostic process, in the presence of specific symptoms or in possession of already reported medical analysis;
- Care and rehabilitation: services provided by specialists, aimed at orienting therapeutic choices for the benefit of the person, in order to correctly assess the prognostic trend, concerning subjects for whom the diagnosis is clear;
- Monitoring: service of collection, analysis, management over time, of the vital parameters of the assisted people, providing the exchange of data necessary to evaluate the evolution of the clinical picture. Telemonitoring can be used to control the parameters of subjects with critical conditions or to monitor the state of women during pregnancy.
Telemedicine and opportunities
In light of the new needs arising as a result of the pandemic, in the health context of the country, the use of Telemedicine has made it possible, and will continue, to respond to specific needs, to improve communications within the health community, relationships with the patients and to facilitate access to care where necessary. The main opportunities offered by Telemedicine are the following:
- Equity of access to health care, with the possibility of reaching people who are in different remote areas of the country, in some cases difficult to reach.
- Better quality of assistance ensuring continuity of care, with the possibility of reaching the assisted person at home or in the office, negating the need for the patient to go to specialist offices or care facilities and vice versa, allowing professionals to follow him/her remotely. The treatment of chronic disease is a priority for the application of Telemedicine services, improving the quality of life for chronically ill people, through self-management and remote monitoring solutions.
- Better effectiveness, efficiency, appropriateness, to the advantage of the communication flows between the various individuals who interact in the personal care path, facilitating the actions to be taken, through the appropriate use of resources, the reduction of risks associated with complications and the reduction of the use of hospitalisation, characterised by long waiting times, optimising the use of available resources.
- Containment of health care costs, thanks to the reduction of the social cost of pathologies, due to hospitalisation and what it implies.
- Significant contribution to the economy, since Telemedicine represents one of the industrial sectors with the highest rate of innovation and potential growth, not only in Italy, but also in Europe.
The main areas of application
- Relevant diseases, for where it was necessary to implement the use of Telemedicine tools, as a means of promoting a better level of interaction between hospitals, healthcare centres etc., reducing the need to move fragile patients, by offering them the possibility of being cared for at home. For example, in the field of rare diseases, the use of information and communication technologies can guarantee the identification and remote access to the necessary specialist health care;
- Emergency Urgency, whereby the use of technologies makes it possible to manage emergency health care activities, aimed at eliminating risk, by connecting to other parts of the health network. The use of Telemedicine can rapidly make available, clinical information useful for improving the management of critical subjects;
- Laboratory and imaging diagnostics.
Telemedicine and legislation
On 17 December 2020, the State Regions Conference in Italy approved the new national guidelines for the provision of Telemedicine services, which have become fully recognised health services. It will always be the doctor who decides whether or not to make use of these tools which the official document identifies as: televisit, medical teleconsultation, medical-health teleconsultancy, teleassistance by health professions, telerefertation.