Cloud-Based Telehealth Defined: Advantages, Applications, and Security

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Cloud-Based Telehealth Defined: Advantages, Applications, and Security

Cloud-based telehealth is a rapidly growing sector of the modern healthcare industry. There have always been gaps in patient care – times when healthcare providers needed constant updates on their patients in order to give proper care. Cloud-based telehealth is used to close those gaps.

Telehealth refers to the use of communications technologies like the Internet and various apps to monitor the changes in a patient’s vital signs during the day. Think of a diabetic. Telehealth technologies would allow him to use his smart phone to measure his blood sugar during the day; the app would also send this information to his doctor. The doctor can then have access to data that will allow him to notice trends in the pattern of blood sugar fluctuations during the day. This, in turn, will allow the doctor to recommend better treatment options for his patient. The app could also let the doctor know that the patient is not checking his blood sugar enough. This is a simplistic example, but it provides an understandable illustration of the basic way that telehealth can affect every-day life.

This form of telehealth uses cloud storage to speed up the rate at which medical information is received and transferred. The cloud, as it is often called, is an offsite server farm that is overseen by an outside company like an internet service provider or software company. Instead of physical copies of information, the cloud is accessible to anyone that has an internet connection and the right password.

There are quite a few advantages to cloud-based healthcare.

  • Medical updates are regular and constant.
  • It is easy for doctors and patients to access.
  • It alleviates the need for some in-office appointments.

An updated doctor is a more effective doctor. Not only that, but the ease of access allows for the transfer or viewing of the same medical files instantly to different doctors or hospitals. People with their medical information stored in the cloud could allow access to medical history by an emergency room or a new specialist without having to go through all of the time-consuming paperwork. Some chronic conditions necessitate a monthly visit to the doctor. With the constant updates to medical files, doctors can monitor the health of their patients without the patient needing to physically be at the doctor’s office. This saves time for both the patient and the doctor.

The applications for this technology are numerous. Patients can now access care in four different ways.

  • Mobile care – using smart phones and apps to interact with a doctor.
  • Video chat- using a live video chat with a doctor for routine follow-ups.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring- using an internet-enabled device to update patients’ information or allow phone calls to integrated into the medical record.
  • Store and Forward- using the cloud to allow access to test and scan results.

More and more people turn to their smart technologies for help and information. The use of smart phones and apps to allow more informed interactions between doctor and patient can only increase the level of care that people receive. Using video chat, a doctor can take an appointment with a patient that is half-way round the world. A specialist can perform an intake interview with a new patient without either of them having to make a trip to the office. The regular updates via apps, other devices, or phone calls give a better picture of person’s overall health. The ability to access new patient tests and scans almost instantly by several doctors gives coordination in care. Primary care physicians and specialists can work together better by sharing information. Not only that, but if there is a pattern that applies to multiple patients, a doctor can view their records side by side.

For some, the thought of having their records accessible via the internet can be frightening. But the security of information is not in the hands of the doctors; it is in the hands of the cloud providers.

  • Encryption- using keys and codes to scramble data so that it is not readable to those without the specific formula to decode the info.
  • Device Care- managing the physical well-being and updates of devices so that they continue to work optimally.
  • Password Security- building an internal scaffold that is based on different passwords and user identification methods.

Encryption is the greatest defense of information. It is impossible to read coded information without the encryption key, and every key is different. Some encryptions are layered – the encrypted data is encrypted itself by a different key. Some companies will use over five different keys to encrypt their data. A properly maintained and updated device is a device that is at peak performance. Updates also help block viruses or close back-doors into the information stored there. Constantly monitored access patterns and password changes as well as other internet fingerprints like access location allow security systems to determine who is accessing the data and if they have the authority to do so.

As healthcare continues to progress, cloud-based telehealth will be incorporated more and more into the doctor’s arsenal of testing and treatment options. One day, patients that have trouble sleeping will be able to allow a sleep center to monitor them from the comfort of their own home. People with chronic conditions will not need to fear an extended trip or even a move because they can still regularly be monitored by their doctors. The wait time that exists between the first visit to a specialist and the arrival of medical records will be almost non-existent. With the use of information technology, the level of care will be greater, and the ease of access will give both patients and doctors more room to live their lives.

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