With HRI projecting 81 million Americans to have some kind of chronic condition by 2020, the demand for primary care is growing. Yet today’s outdated care models are forcing today’s industry to adapt.
This includes telemedicine, a trend within the medical industry that is growing thanks to its efficiency and convenience. But what is telemedicine? Beyond that, does it have the power to change healthcare?
Let’s delve into this convenient service and its influence over medical practice.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of remote healthcare evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. While it’s not actually a new trend, it has found momentum. This is due to technology’s constant innovation.
Telecommunication began as a solution for patients who lived in remote areas. With limited healthcare resources, they needed a way to communicate with specialists. Yet today it’s a convenience. It eliminates the need to take time off and sit in the waiting room of an overbooked doctor.
Typically, telemedicine is for minor care needs. Yet it also helps individuals who need expedited care get the referral they need. There is no need to travel long distances or find an open appointment slot. A consultation is a video chat away.
Today, there are many ways to receive telemedicine. Certain healthcare providers offer it as an option. There are also Android and Apple apps that connect you with a healthcare professional.
How is Telemedicine Impacting the Healthcare Industry?
So what is telemedicine doing to disrupt the healthcare industry? Many things, actually. The ripples of this evolving medical service are being felt across various medical practices.
Below are some of the most common ways it’s changing the healthcare landscape.
1. It’s Offering a Safer Environment for Diagnosis:
Most patients don’t go to the doctor because they feel well. Waiting rooms full of individuals with contagious illnesses are breeding grounds. This is especially true during flu season and other epidemics.
But not all illnesses need a physical test to diagnose. Many illnesses can be diagnosed by studying the patient’s symptoms and asking the right questions.
Telemedicine offers the sick a virtual doctor’s visit without having to leave the confines of their home. There is no need to go out in public or expose themselves to others, further spreading the virus or illness that they have to others.
2. Its Convenience Provides a Better Patient Experience:
Planning a doctor’s visit can be a serious hassle for patients. A simple visit to a primary care physician costs a patient time and money outside of the actual visit itself.
Because of typical physician hours, most patients have to take a few hours or more off from work or school just to attend the appointment. On top of that, they have to wait in a waiting room environment with other sick individuals for an appointment that most likely won’t be on time.
This often leads to a frustrating patient experience. Yet telemedicine can eliminate these challenges. When a medical appointment is only a video chat away, quality care can be received without ever leaving home, work, or school.
3. Technology Opens Doors to Efficient Medical Treatment:
Telemedicine is not only convenient for the patient, but for healthcare professionals, too. Some medical treatments require collaboration. However, not all specialists or medical treatments are offered in one facility.
Telemedicine makes it much easier for various doctors to work together in treating a patient. For example, a primary doctor can schedule a virtual consultation with a specialist while the patient is present. If in that consultation, the specialist determines that further care isn’t required, the patient is spared unnecessary travel and appointments.
On the flipside of that, the specialist can also expedite treatment by approving a patient for admission into the hospital if necessary. In medical emergencies, this can be a life-saving option.
Smoother patient transitions and better communication between doctors aren’t the only benefits to this process, either. Research conducted by doctors at John Hopkins Medicine have proven that patients tend to be more honest and open with their doctors via telecommunicated appointments. There is an ease that comes with being in their home’s setting that relaxes the patient and improves communication.
4. Telemedicine is Cost-Efficient:
The ability to set up and conduct virtual appointments with patients is extremely cost-effective for doctors. One of the biggest contributors to high health care costs is the amount of unnecessary emergency room visits and readmissions that make getting quick, efficient treatment difficult.
It will also reduce the odds of no-shows or appointment cancellations made by patients because it lacks the inconvenience of having to make time for a physical visit.
Some patients will even be more likely to make appointments, which increases revenue for the doctor or practice.
It’s a win-win for both the medical professionals and the patients.
Will Telemedicine Replace Traditional Doctor Visits?
Not entirely, no. While telemedicine can help reduce the number of unnecessary in-office appointments, there will always be a need for healthcare facilities and practices.
If anything, telemedicine is a useful tool that expands on a doctor’s ability to be efficient while improving patient care and satisfaction. By accommodating the patient’s availability and making communication and collaboration between doctors easier, the level of care will increase.
We may also find that telecommunication brings more affordable options to the table since it provides a more cost-effective treatment solution. This is something we will be able to gauge better in time.
You can learn more about telemedicine options by researching providers. Yet the popularity of virtual medical practice both for physical and mental health is a sign that it will play a prevalent role in the future of healthcare.
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