Did you know that telehealth services saw their usage increase by more than 100 percent from 2019 to 2020? While the pandemic spurred this growth, telehealth has shown benefits that could make it a popular option even after the pandemic is over. Advances in technology are improving the ability to move information and track patient health.
Like all areas of medicine, cardiology is embracing the telehealth model. Telecardiology advice is given by physicians so it is trustworthy and the information can save lives.
Read on to learn about what telecardiology is, how it is offered to patients, and the services it offers.
What is Telecardiology?
Cardiology is the branch of medicine that concerns the diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases. Telecardiology pairs cardiology with emerging technologies like video conferencing and secure digital record sharing. The end-product is a remote visit with a cardiologist.
Some of the benefits include:
Prior to the growth of telemedicine, all appointments had to take plat in the doctor’s office. Telecardiology allows a cardiologist the flexibility to take appointments from any location. This expands the hours the physician is available to meet with patients.
Telecardiology appointments save patients time because they do not have to drive to the office or clinic, find parking, and then wait to be seen. Since most doctor’s offices are open during normal business hours, the patient also benefits by not having to take time off from work.
Improved Patient Access
The U.S. has a growing need for cardiologists. Heart disease and strokes are two of the top five causes of death in the U.S. each year. This is due to a large number of smokers and people with pulmonary diseases, both of which cause cardiac diseases.
Not every patient has access to a cardiologist and the wait time for an appointment could be long. Telecardiology allows anyone to meet with a cardiologist, as long as they have access to a computer or smartphone and reliable internet access. This can be particularly beneficial for rural patients or the elderly, who could face long trips or find travel difficult.
Primary and Secondary Care Collaboration
Telecardiology allows for collaboration between a patient’s primary care provider and the remote cardiologist. The telecardiology advice helps the primary care provider make a better diagnosis and provide better care.
Comfort Of Home
With the ongoing pandemic, communicating at home through telecardiology is preferable for some. For patients who don’t speak English or it isn’t their primary language, conducting the visit from their home is advantageous. They can have a family member or friend accompany them on the teleconference to help with communication.
What Telecardiology Services Are Offered?
Telecardiology relies on the same features as other areas in telemedicine. These features require input that is forwarded from the patient and local healthcare providers.
Real-time teleconferencing allows the patient to communicate directly with their cardiologist. This takes the place of the face-to-face visit and allows for questioning and consultation.
Store and Forward
Many providers in telehealth use a delivery system called “store and forward”. This system is a two-step process where a patient first has their clinical information gathered at a local facility. It is then electronically forwarded to a cardiologist. Specific to telecardiology, this would be an electrocardiogram (ECG) reading, but it could also include lab results.
There are technology platforms that facilitate the transfer of medical data during this process. These platforms feature HIPAA software to ensure the process meets federal compliance laws.
Telecardiology providers use remote patient monitoring to track the patient’s status during their day-to-day activities. Patients wear a smartwatch or other wearable device that constantly measures their ECG signals. Should the cardiologist notice any abnormal results, they contact the patient and tell them to seek help.
Moblie Heath Applications
Mobile Health applications, also referred to as mHealth, are downloaded onto a smartphone or laptop to aid with remote monitoring. They can be set to send daily reminders to enter health information which your cardiologist will review.
Other Considerations For Telecardiology
As with an emerging medical practice, there are considerations that need to be made by both a patient and cardiologist. Some are unique to the telemedicine forum and others apply to traditional in-person service.
Insurance coverage can vary drastically between providers. Many private insurers only cover the teleconferencing visits. This means that the cardiologist or patient will need to pick up the cost for the other services.
Medicare does offer reimbursement for remote physiologic monitoring. But while this sounds similar, it isn’t categorized with telemedicine. Patients should review their insurance plans to see what services are covered.
Medical Licenses Conflicts
State laws and licensing regulations vary greatly. This can complicate telecardiology, especially when the patient and cardiologist are in different states.
Fortunately, many states modified their requirements for telemedicine during the pandemic. With the growing popularity of telemedicine, these modifications may become permanent. It is wise to check the requirements of your state.
Limitations In Service
Despite all that telecardiology offers, some instances may require an in-person visit. Any invasive cardiac procedure will be performed by a cardiologist, requiring the patient to travel.
Is It Time For Telecardiology?
Now that you know what telecardiology is, are you ready to get started? There are many benefits to both the patient and provider, but you should consider all the factors before making a decision. If you’re ready to take a deeper dive into telecardiology, contact us for more information.