How Is Telemedicine Changing Prison Health Care?

How is Telemedicine Changing Prison Health Care

Telemedicine in health care is a medical practice involving the use of technology to deliver health care remotely. A physician who provides the health care service in telemedicine relies on telecommunication devices and the internet to provide care to a patient in another location. In most cases, the recipient of this type of care is attended to by physicians who follow instructions from the caregiver who delivers the service at the other end. Telemedicine is now used not only in hospitals and clinics; they are deployed in prisons and other non-medical facilities.

How Telemedicine Is Changing Health Care Delivery In Prison

One of the fields of advancement in the medical field in the 21st century is telemedicine platform development. This is a particular type of platform development that can be suited for any environment and different purposes. It offers excellent benefits, including saving the costs of transporting patients to remote places for health care. Telemedicine is changing the health care delivery system in prisons across the country and the world in the following ways;

1. Enhanced Safety of Prison Staffs and Patients

Traditionally, prisoners who require urgent health care are transported out of prison facilities to hospitals. With this method, many prisoners have managed to escape on several occasions.

Aside from the likelihood of prisoners escaping via traditional health care methods, medical staff may be subjected to harassment and loss of lives when this arrangement goes wrong. Telemedicine will keep prison inmates within the walls of the prison and surrounded by guards.

2. Cost-saving Benefits

Prison inmate health care, especially in private hospitals, can be expensive, in addition to the fact that it is risky. Billions of dollars were spent on inmates’ health care yearly before the invention of telemedicine.

Many prisoners do enter prison facilities with chronic medical conditions and infectious diseases. Medical staff is often scared to enter prison facilities to treat these chronic conditions to fear possible attacks. If chronic infections are not managed effectively within prison wards, the diseases will spread quickly and become even more expensive to treat.

Longer prison terms are creating an aging population of prisoners who need extensive medical care. Telemedicine will control costs of medical care services in several ways; Virtual care will reduce the number of tests to be conducted because there will be no need for inmates to go for tests outside emergency rooms. It will also reduce the costs of transportation. Telemedicine can help discover inmates who feign sicknesses as a ploy to escape.

3. It Reduces the Spread of Infectious Diseases

The health and safety of staff and inmates are critical, which is why telemedicine is essential. The effect of transmissible Covid19 infection, for instance, shows that there is a need to take healthcare delivery in prisons more seriously. Aside from diseases like STIs that telemedicine has helped reduce in prisons, common infections like Diphtheria bacterial infection have also been effectively treated via telemedicine.

Ectoparasitic infections from lice and scabies are some other transmittable infections common in prisons. Tetanus, a bacterial infection that enters the body via untreated open wounds, is also rampant in violent prisons. All these diseases and many others are currently being handled professionally via telemedicine in prison facilities.

4. Enhancement of Vaccinations, Quarantine, and Personal Hygiene

It is possible to handle quarantine needs in prison facilities via telemedicine. The physician offering this service remotely can examine a quarantine prisoner remotely and instruct physicians on further steps to take to handle the situation based on results from the effect of quarantining. Similarly, improving inmates’ personal hygiene has been made possible and enhanced via instructions given through telemedicine. Vaccinations can also be handled efficiently via telemedicine.

5. Improved Medical Care

Finding physicians who are willing to provide medical care within prison walls can be challenging. Since many prison facilities are cited in remote locations, the fear of being taken hostage is the primary reason many physicians don’t go there.

In addition to safety concerns, prison facilities are mandated to provide adequate medical care to inmates under the law. Failure to provide medical care to inmates either by omission or deliberate act is considered a serious crime, and prison officials may be punished severely.

The fear of civil liberty groups filing claims against prison officials is enough to consider prompt health care delivery in prison facilities.  

Are There Challenges To Tele-medical Care In Prisons?

There are several challenges to telemedicine platform development; perhaps the most prominent among these are;

  • Funding
  • Adoption, and
  • Regulations.

Funding is a challenge because adopting new technology will cost more than the traditional way of delivering healthcare. The costs of procurement of these devices, the fee for services rendered out of traditional hospitals can add up quickly. Many physicians may request additional fees for working outside of their jurisdiction, and such could add up when several inmates had to be taken care of.

Adoption is another issue that limits the deployment of telemedicine care in prisons. The applicability of this system can be difficult in certain situations. Some prison facilities may not have enough space for deploying new technologies like this. This means telemedicine is not applicable in all prison facilities.

Some healthcare providers oppose telemedical practices because it poses serious competition. Many physicians are not permitted to take part in this type of arrangement because their employers feel they may suffer financially.

Regulations used to be the most serious challenge to telemedicine in prison facilities. Telemedicine used to be operated in very few states, but today, it is available in almost all states. Since each state has its regulations and laws governing medical practices in prisons, incorporating different laws to prevent conflicts can be a huge challenge.

Traditional regulatory medical practices may be difficult to implement with telemedicine. Aside from state regulations, federal regulations also come with their own challenges that telemedicine users must meet to implement telemedicine successfully.

Many healthcare services providers often resist innovative ideas like telemedicine, which is why many prison facility managers have not implemented it today.