Originally developed to treat patients in remote locations, telemedicine is growing exponentially as it provides more efficient medical care. How much is this field of healthcare growing? PwC reports that analysts expect the global market for telemedicine to exceed $30 billion by 2020.
With more than half of consumers open to virtual healthcare visits, there are many advantages of telemedicine. Here are five of the most significant reasons why telemedicine is the future of healthcare.
1. Convenience for Patients
A visit to the doctor often means taking at least half a day off work and pulling children out of school. However, visiting a website and communicating with a physician through video offers an enormous increase in convenience.
Telemedicine obviously reduces travel time to and wait time in the doctor’s office. This convenience could also allow more people to keep up regular doctor appointments. Everything from virtual visits with general physicians to consultations with specialists stationed around the globe can be conveniently provided for patients.
2. Less Exposure to Contagious Patients
Sitting in a crowded doctor’s office puts patients at a higher risk of contracting a variety of illnesses. According to Health IT Outcomes, telemedicine can help contain epidemics such as influenza by treating patients through virtual visits. Both patients and healthcare providers benefit.
Reducing the spread of contagious illnesses has the opportunity of substantial economic impact on a community during an outbreak. Forms of telemedicine prove especially attractive to schools and businesses. Virtual medicine could allow an employee to visit a doctor while still sick at home. This keeps the employee out of a waiting room and public, further spreading an illness to others.
3. Improved Medical Efficiency
Telemedicine facilitates collaboration among medical providers, which ultimately increases efficiency. The American Hospital Association states that as this new system of healthcare evolves, telehealth will improve healthcare’s overall efficiency as an industry.
If a patient has been advised by his or her primary doctor to see a specialist regarding a particular health issue, the visit to the specialist can be conducted via telemedicine. After viewing the patient’s medical records and discussing the issue online, the specialist may decide that further care is unnecessary, thus saving an incredible amount of time and money that would have been involved in an actual office visit.
On the other hand, the specialist may immediately admit the patient into the hospital, preventing the patient from worsening in the time it would have taken to schedule an actual visit.
4. Better Patient Care
Being able to examine and communicate with patients online enables medical providers to work together, providing higher levels of patient care. Hospitals & Health Networks points out that handoffs during transitional care can run much more smoothly with the use of virtual medicine.
For example, video conferencing between a patient, the general practitioner and a specialist can take place with all three individuals communicating at once. This smooth transition of continuous care makes it more likely that the patient will follow through and see the specialist, and ultimately provides higher quality patient care.
Research also shows that levels of patients are more relaxed, open, and honest when teleconsulting from home. Dr. Ray Dorsey, director of the movement disorders division and neurology telemedicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, discussed the advancements in of telemedicine with NPR. In the familiar surroundings of their own home, one Dorsey’s patient wrote:
“I like the interaction being personal despite the 3,000-mile distance. It felt somehow protected by the veil of technology, which enabled the exchange to be more honest.”
5. Increased Revenue
The cost-effectiveness of being able to see and communicate with patients digitally is substantial. The University of Arizona reports that hospital readmissions and unnecessary emergency room visits are two of the primary reasons health care costs are so high. Telemedicine can reduce ER trips and readmissions by making healthcare more accessible.
Virtual appointments can also reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows at the office, which cost practices a significant amount of money each year. It can also attract new patients while increasing the ease of patient flow throughout the day, both of which will increase revenue.
Plus, with relatively low upfront and overhead costs healthcare organizations quickly see a return on their telemedicine investment.
Telemedicine provides not only improved convenience and quality of care for patients but increases revenue and supports health professionals. As technology continues to advance and insurance companies get on board with coverage, telemedicine will almost certainly continue to expand.
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