Diagnosis 2.0: Telemedicine can save lives
Telemedicine will be an important part of healthcare in the future. Online consultations with the doctor can help, among other things, to make faster diagnoses and even save lives in an emergency. Even if the offers are still manageable, new projects are always presented. Currently also one that should improve medical care for children and adolescents.
An important part of health care in Germany
Although the field of telemedicine in Germany is still in its infancy, experts say it will be an important part of health care in the future. Especially in rural regions, telemedicine is becoming increasingly important as a measure against the shortage of doctors. In addition, the medical challenges of aging society can be mastered much better with digital technologies. In an emergency, life can depend on a timely and accurate diagnosis. However, experts criticize that telemedicine in Germany is still far behind its possibilities. An eloquent example of this is the endless tugging about the electronic health card. A message from the dpa news agency reports on a case from pediatric medicine, which makes it clear that there is more in it without having to neglect sensitive data protection.
Online help wanted
At the beginning of 2015, a boy was born in Bavaria with a thick reddish growth on the bridge of his nose. Like Dr. Mani Rafii, board member of the replacement fund Barmer GEK, explained that the doctors in the maternity hospital initially assumed a harmless skin tumor. The pediatrician who later treated wanted to play it safe. Therefore, he got an assessment online from an expert. This determined that the infant had a rare tumor. "In the end, he was operated on successfully," said Rafii.
Improved rural health care
The Barmer GEK and the professional association of children and adolescents (BVKJ) recently published a press release on a specially developed telemedicine system, called "PädExpert", which is intended to improve the treatment of adolescents with chronic and rare diseases. Pediatricians can use it to consult a pediatric specialist online to confirm unclear diagnoses and to coordinate treatment. "With PädExpert we optimize medical care, especially in the country. Thanks to PädExpert, our youngest insured people save long journeys and waiting times at the specialist, ”says Dr. Rafii.
Recognize rare diseases in good time
But there are advantages not only for patients in rural areas. Even in large cities, it can take several weeks to get an appointment with a specialist. With PädExpert, an initial assessment should be available within 24 hours. In an emergency, this helps the child to the extent that it is not unnecessarily long-term impeded by the rare or chronic illness, especially in a strong growth and development phase. The chance of early detection of rare diseases or tumors should therefore be significantly higher in the future. As it says in the agency report, the irritating topic of appointment service points for resident specialists could be somewhat rectified as a side effect. These are intended to accelerate the allocation of specialist appointments for health insurance patients and to help in the search for a specialist.
Fewer specialist appointments thanks to telemedicine
According to the dpa, the president of the professional association of pediatricians (BVKJ), Thomas Fischbach, emphasized that telemedicine should not replace the specialist. However, in two out of three cases, specialist visits may no longer be necessary in the future. Data protection must of course be guaranteed, explained Bavarian BVKJ chairman Martin Lang, who helped to develop the program. It is said that an online consultation with a specialist colleague is only possible with the consent of the parents. According to the information, 80 percent would be very open to such a possibility.
When the project was presented, Rafii emphasized that the health insurance company had no access to the data. In the press release, he spoke in general for a stronger use of telemedical applications and linked this to conditions. "Telemedicine must have a concrete added value for the patient, demonstrate it in a basic evaluation and meet the highest data protection requirements," said Rafii. The telemedicine system that Barmer negotiates with the pediatricians is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Health. It is now to be tested first in Bavaria and then introduced throughout Germany in the middle of the year. (ad)