The use of telecommunication methods and technologies in providing patients with clinical healthcare at a distance is referred to as telemedicine. First surfacing in 2008, technological advances have recently allowed the benefits of telemedicine to overshadow concerns about privacy and non-adoption on a grand scale.
To understand the challenges gripping the healthcare industry and how telemedicine provides a ray of hope, refer the infographic below.
Making a case for the advantages of telemedicine
Experts in the healthcare industry are beginning to understand that telemedicine can be beneficial in 3 specific aspects of healthcare:
Primary care and specialist referral services Traditionally, patients cringe when their general practitioner utters the phrase, “I’m going to refer you to a specialist.” Specialists are by nature fewer in number, and therefore it is challenging for patients to secure appointments. Through the benefits of telemedicine, patients can consult with a specialist remotely, and the primary care provider can receive in real-time the data or feedback necessary to continue treatment.
Remote patient monitoring Integrating telemedicine practices with interfaces such as mobile devices, tablets, and wearable devices allow healthcare professionals to monitor patient vitals and more easily treat chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. The advantage of telemedicine in this case is that it improves the quality of the care patients receive over time and reduces instances of relapse or worsened conditions due to skipped follow-up appointments.
Consumer medical and health information With the very stringent HIPAA privacy requirements evolving alongside Telemedicine solutions, medical professionals enjoy the benefits of telemedicine allowing them to share patient data across secured systems with specialists and patients alike.
US healthcare professionals leveraging the benefits of telemedicine to overcome industry challenges
There are 3 overwhelming challenges facing patients in the United States when it comes to securing healthcare:
Difficulty accessing physicians for care When 63% of the US population doesn’t have easy access to treatment on nights, weekends, or holidays beyond emergency services, it is difficult to discuss the effectiveness of the health industry. It’s even harder when that same population on average waits six days to see a primary care provider. Telemedicine increases access to healthcare, especially in areas where a shortage of healthcare providers exists. By the year 2018, 21 million consumers are expected to reap the benefits of telemedicine.
Increasing pressures on healthcare system as professionals retire The exodus of the boomer generation will greatly affect the healthcare industry, which will see 1/3rd of current practicing physicians, retire in the next 10 years. This trend will continue into and beyond 2020. Telemedicine allows patients to seek treatment even in the absence of available care providers in their area. Further, doctors and emergency care providers will be less burdened and better able to provide focused care as telemedicine services could eliminate 15% of office visits and 15% of emergency room visits.
Escalating Healthcare costs The percentage of GDP spent on healthcare in the United States is expected to increase 3% by the year 2020 to 20% Telemedicine is projected to save the industry and public $6 billion in annual costs by decreasing office visits, emergency room visits, and visits to urgent care. The average cost of an emergency room visit is $2168. The average telemedicine virtual session with a professional costs $50. The benefits of telemedicine will allow families to save upwards of $1000 in claims.
As mentioned in the infographic above, telemedicine can help tackle these 3 challenges and can be a boon for the healthcare industry. While there are still few challenges for telemedicine that need to be resolved before the technology gets adopted on a much bigger scale, including that of HIPAA compliance, it’s just a matter of time before such solutions get widespread adoption from both care seekers and care providers alike.