Telemedicine is becoming increasingly prevalent across the world, providing convenient and affordable diagnosis and treatment solutions to millions of patients every day.
Telemedicine visits have grown dramatically over the last few years, largely thanks to the technology’s ability to deliver healthcare to remote locations.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is all about the real-time, electronic communication between a patient and doctor. Essentially, telemedicine provides a much more cost-effective way for healthcare providers to speak to and advise patients.
The technology opens up new lines of accessibility between patient and physician. From make video calls to sharing patient data and even making medical images available in a completely secure fashion. Among the various services of telemedicine, tele-monitoring is expected to grow the most, due to an increased number of people being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease.
According to Cision, the Global Telemedicine market accounted for $21.56 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at a rapid rate, hitting $93.45 billion by 2026. Despite the increase in popularity, there are still plenty of people who have yet to fully grasp the benefits of telemedicine. It is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Here’s why:
Convenience for patients
Many patients associate visiting the doctor with unnecessary hassle, long queues and rushed appointments. Telemedicine allows patience to talk directly with their physician from the comfort of their home, minus the crowded waiting rooms and long commutes.
Telemedicine can be used for all types of patients, from the elderly who struggle to get around to busy working parents who have to request time off from work whenever they need to see a doctor. Telemedicine only requires patients to have a reliable internet connection.
On top of the ease of visitation, telemedicine also saves the patient valuable dollars. A telemedicine consultation ranges between $49 and $99, and is an option preferred by many uninsured patients, increasing patient counts for clinicians and providing the uninsured with much needed care.
Some telemedicine providers are going out of their way to remove any friction when it comes to enrolling patients on their platforms. A great example in the telemedicine space is a company called HelloAlvin which allows potential customers to fully enroll in their program via a text message chatbot.
Telemedicine combines convenience with quality of care, removing barriers and providing a better, more cost effective alternative to traditional in-person hospital visits.
Flexibility for physicians
Not only are healthcare professionals able to conduct patient check-ups easier, they can also tend to more patients on any given day.
Telemedicine allows doctors to expand their clientele and increase their profits without getting burned out. To make their job easier, doctors may also rely on medical devices such as Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN).
Driven by smart software applications, both RPM and MBAN can “talk” to other devices through wireless-enabled devices and transmit data over the internet, allowing physicians to diagnose and treat patients remotely, according to Orthogonal.
This means that doctors don’t need a physical office and can see patients from anywhere, including from home, after they are done seeing patients in person. The appeal of flexibility, is what convinced 70 percent of healthcare businesses to implement telemedicine in some way.
So what are five key applications for telemedicine?
1. Managing digestive diseases is easier
In a study in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, reported that telemedicine can be used to empower those who are suffering from digestive issues. It gives the patient the knowledge and the help to access high-quality care quickly and efficiently.
Despite these benefits, the same study shows only 9% of gastroenterologists reported the use of telemedicine in 2016, despite patients being highly receptive to the use of telemedicine to help manage their gastrointestinal disease.
2. Improving training in specialized areas, such as antibiotic stewardship
Two rural hospitals in Virginia without infectious disease specialists managed to improve antibiotic stewardship thanks to telemedicine.
Two teams from each hospital met for hour-long telemedicine sessions each week to talk about the antibiotic stewardship program. This ensured all staff members were trained correctly, best practices were applied and difficult situations were tacked faster.
3. Ensuring patient data protection
It’s now becoming more important than ever that patient data is kept securely. Disclosing important health data over a web camera or phone can be nerve-wracking.
However, telemedicine has found a way to ensure patient confidentiality. Data is encrypted across all devices and systems are tested frequently to avoid security breaches.These multiple layers of security means telemedicine can be safer than keeping patients’ files in an unlocked desk drawer.
4. Decentralized Care
As hospitals shift from larger spaces to community-based locations, they have begun teaming up with emergency care centers and adopting more cost-efficient, tech-based solutions. Telemedicine is one of them.
This in turn will help hospitals attract younger doctors who like the flexibility and financial opportunities offered by telemedicine. They can travel to a medical conference on the other side of the world, and still keep in touch with patients – and be paid for their work.
5. Improving patient satisfaction
There are more and more studies showing that telemedicine can improve patients’ satisfaction.
Follow-up doctor’s visits in the weeks after cardiovascular surgery, for instance, can make for a painful car ride that could delay healing. With telemedicine, healthcare providers can remotely evaluate their patients’ symptoms and prescribe treatments.
There’s no doubt that telemedicine is one the most promising healthcare trends in 2019, but there is still a long way to go. In order for it to reach its full potential, new laws need to be passed that will allow doctors to be paid equally for virtual consultations.
Once doctors are able to get equal value for their telemedicine services, and companies see the full potential for these services, in-office doctor visits might become a thing of the past and so will all the stress and financial burden associated with them.