Telehealth, or healthcare provided through connective technologies, allows patients to stay connected with their healthcare providers. The growth of mobile apps and digital technology will fuel telehealth's growth as a resource for patients.
Telemedicine, or telehealth, is all about patient and physician interaction: It’s the sharing of still images and patient consultation through video conferencing and remote monitoring of vital signs.
Though telehealth has been around since the 1960s, when it was used to monitor the physiological parameters of astronauts, its full potential has been realized recently.
According to a Research and Market report, the telemedicine market is calculated to reach almost $64 million by 2022.
Due to recent technological advancements, there has been a shift in telemedicine. Technical and communications tools have made it easier for patients and physicians to communicate so that proper consultation, diagnosis, and care are provided. As a result, these mobile and web apps are gaining popularity among physicians, patients, insurance companies, and medical facilities
However, telemedicine isn’t limited to specialized mobile or desktop apps. In fact, video conferencing is one of the largest platforms that is being used by telehealth and anything that helps patients or doctors connect with each other remotely will come under this specialty.
Through mobile app and web-based technology, smaller and understaffed clinics have the opportunity to connect with other more experienced doctors at central hospitals and patients can effortlessly coordinate with doctors from their home.
This article explores the current growth of telemedicine, how it’s being used in different industries, its expected development in the near future, and some of the limitations it presents.
Growing Population Will Lead to Increase in Telemedicine
It’s predicted that population growth will cause a shortage of healthcare professionals and specialties, especially in the rural areas. An increase in population will also mean that more people will be living with chronic diseases and both diagnosis and treatment will be challenging with limited resources.
However, telehealth apps will be available to rural areas and need areas in need of immediate assistance, which will make healthcare much more comfortable and convenient for both patients and doctors. This technology can also help those who are bedridden or can’t get to their primary healthcare provider in the case of an emergency.
Other than patient convenience, organizations that deploy telemedicine practices and apps also hope to cut back on the costs associated with patient in-house patient care.
The Growth of Telemedicine Services
Recently, medical practices and digital health companies have reported that they’ve seen an increase in flu-concerned patients reaching out for their services.
Because the growing awareness of telemedicine, more people are becoming open to this new and digital way of treatment.
The influx of patients trusting telehealth could also be because hospitals are now telling patients to actively make use of telemedicine rather than visit the E.R.
Examples of how telemedicine is being adopted:
- Royal Phillips and American Well signed a strategic partnership to jointly deliver virtual care solutions to their combined customers. American Well is the leading telehealth provider in the United States. Along with Phillips, a global leader in health technology, it hopes to connect the gap between patient-doctor interactions.
- GE Healthcare and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) partnered to create a cloud-based tool to drive personalized care at both the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea and the 2020 Games in Tokyo. This will allow information on athletes' medical past, health scans, and vitals, to be readily communicated and available to the medical staff.
- Healthcare providers such as Cigna and Oscar Health now offer telemedicine as part of their plans. These companies are getting serious about stats that say that 80% of consumers who’ve had real-time communication via a mobile app prefer it over traditional office visits.
More than 30 states have also recently passed bills which require insurance companies to cover telehealth and medicine in one way or the other. Because insurers see telemedicine as a way to increase efficiency and reduce costs, they now include remote visits even in states where it isn’t mandatory.
In all, experts predict that the telemedicine market will grow by 14.3% by 2020.
With 90% of healthcare providers saying that they currently use or plan to incorporate telemedicine programs into their practice, the market for telehealth is increasing by leaps and bounds.
Limitations of Telemedicine
Though more than half of all U.S hospitals use telemedicine, there are a few important limitations.
3 of the most apparent limitations of telemedicine include:
- Patient record privacy: Unlike physical medical records, online records and conversations can be hacked. This poses a significant risk to both patient and doctor because even the slightest breach of confidentiality can be dangerous.
- High dependency on bandwidth and connectivity speed: To carry out video calls on Skype and other such software, you need to be connected to high-speed internet. Even the slightest lags can cost you your time with the doctor, and this won’t be an ideal situation when you have something to discuss.
- Less trust between patients and physicians: Face-to-face conversations are more than just talking about your symptoms and getting the treatment. With telemedicine apps, doctors don’t feel empathetic towards the patient, and this reduces trust and reliability in some cases.
To address these issues, the Federation of State Medical Board (FSMB) set guidelines for the safer practice of telehealth. Online scheduling is also being incorporated into the telehealth platforms and apps to make them more functional for both patients and healthcare providers.
Telehealth Apps Will Help Patients and Healthcare Providers Connect
Though it’s still in its early stages, telehealth is expected to be the next big thing.
The telehealth industry is making its way into the medical industry at an exponential rate and users are already beginning to appreciate its wide range of prospects.
Mostly, the growth of telehealth will help patients stay connected to their healthcare providers, a valuable resource that will ultimately help more people experience medical coverage.
About the Author
Zyana Morris is a passionate health and lifestyle blogger who loves to write about prevailing trends. She is a featured author at various authoritative blogs in the health and fitness industry. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.