- Telemedicine allows patients to have conversations with healthcare professionals remotely – saving time for both the physician and the patient.
- Telemedicine is offered in a variety of formats that can be tailored toward specific patients’ needs.
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Waiting for hours at a doctor’s office to ask a simple question or to request an impromptu checkup can be tiresome, and in some cases, can prevent patients from seeking their physician’s help. However in the wake of digital disruption, technology has revolutionized healthcare by enabling more convenient and efficient means of communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Telemedicine makes remote consultations and diagnoses possible. Patients can schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional through a variety of methods including calling a toll-free number or logging into a mobile app. The physician on the receiving end of the request can then schedule a virtual appointment with the patient. can collect an individual user’s vitals and health data, like their heart rate, and transfer findings to the user’s respective healthcare professional – who can then come up with the appropriate diagnosis remotely.
Telepharmacy is the process of delivering pharmaceutical products to patients via telecommunication. It provides patients with immediate and direct access to pharmacists through phone calls, video chats, and text messaging. To help serve a swelling number of patients with mental illnesses, telemental health has emerged as a form of online therapy where a therapist or counselor can provide psychological or emotional support via email, text messaging, or video chat.
Insider Intelligence predicts that for insurance companies and businesses. About half of US Tech Early Adopters said they would not attend their next annual physical exam remotely if given the option; however, 72% said they could be incentivized – with rewards such as a copay discount – to opt into telemedicine.
Telemedicine allows patients to have conversations with healthcare professionals remotely – saving time for both the physician and the patient. According to Insider Intelligence, the number of physicians on Doximity, essentially a LinkedIn for doctors, who self-reported telemedicine as a skill doubled between 2015 – 2018 – increasing 20% annually.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine, or virtual health, refers to one-on-one consultations between patients and health professionals via video chat, phone call, or text message. Patients can use telemedicine for annual physical exams as well as to ask one-off questions regarding personal health concerns. Telemedicine is the most recognizable telehealth service for consumers.
How does telemedicine work?
In 2019 American Wells launched its Telehealth Patient app – allowing patients and physicians to request and schedule consultations. The telemedicine company partnered with healthcare software company Epic to allow users to schedule appointments through Epic’s electronic health record (EHR) platform.
With 25% of consumers currently indicating they would be willing to switch their primary care provider for one with more telehealth offerings, it’s likely more healthcare companies will make tie-ups like American Wells and Epic’s.
In addition to providing an efficient and convenient means of healthcare delivery, telemedicine is also cost effective. According to Insider Intelligence’s US Telehealth Market report, 93% of patients in a HealthMine survey who had used telemedicine services reported lower healthcare costs.
Nemours Children’s Health Systems estimates that telehealth appointments cost around $24 less per patient than in-person visits. And in some cases, patients under Medicare or Medicaid can potentially be reimbursed for video-based consultations if they live a certain distance from the nearest care provider.
Examples of telemedicine
Telemedicine is offered in a variety of formats that can be tailored toward specific patients’ needs. Some of the most popular telemedicine services include:
- Telemental health
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When patients and physicians virtually interact through platforms like Skype or FaceTime, they are engaging in a teleconsultation. Additionally, innovative tech companies like Uber have also been able to capitalize on this healthcare trend.
In 2019 Uber’s healthcare division, Uber Health, partnered with Henry Schein Medical so that doctors affiliated with Medpod could request Ubers to shuttle medical assistants with Medpod’s MobileDoc 2 to patients.
For example, the Apple Watch Series 4 includes an electrocardiogram (ECG) feature that can notify the user of when it detects high or low heart rates or irregular rhythms. Additionally, Neurotech’s in-home wearable solution performs both Routine and Long-Term Monitored electroencephalogram (EEG) studies that record patient results and make them available on its Physician Database.
Neuropsychology refers to the way a psychologist or health professional understands the relationship between a human’s brain and their behavior. Teleneuropsychology allows for patients to undergo neuropsychological tests remotely.
Digital technology in healthcare has made it increasingly easier for patients to recover after a procedure or treatment from the comfort of their home, rather than a traditional rehabilitation facility.
Geisinger’s telehealth program for hip- and knee-surgery allows post-op patients to have virtual consultations with nurses via a mobile app. The program saw a 55% drop in inpatient rehabilitation since rolling out in 2016.
Additionally, Kaiser Permanente reduced rehospitalizations after providing patients with a Samsung Gear S3 or Galaxy Watch that linked to a Kaiser- and Samsung-developed application. The app was designed to set care goals and record patients’ rehabilitation progress – 87% of over 2,000 patients enrolled in the study successfully completed the rehabilitation program.
According to Insider Intelligence, 52% of emergency room physicians note that the mental health services in their communities are deteriorating – causing an uptick in mental health patients going to emergency departments. As a result, all but seven US states are experiencing a psychiatrist shortage — defined as having fewer than 14.7 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities that take advantage of telemental health are able to extend the reach of their mental health professionals and ensure that patients are seen sooner and likely given more valuable medical attention.
What are the benefits of telemedicine?
Telemedicine provides patients with 24/7 access to healthcare providers, and companies are beginning to capitalize on this opportunity. According to Insider Intelligence, nearly three-fourths of large US employers offered telemedicine in their most enrolled-in health plan in 2018.
Providing employees with 24/7 access to healthcare professionals, or wearable technology that allows them to monitor their own health data reduces time out-of-office for physician consultations and alleviates expensive hospital visits.
Future of telemedicine in healthcare
Additionally, US employers are continuing to push employee use of wearable technology – with 90% of company wellness programs including fitness trackers in 2021, up from 60% in 2017.
One of the fastest-growing sectors of telemedicine, telemental health, will continue to swell as the US pushes through a national mental health crisis. The number of telemental health consultations conducted in the US grew 56% annually between 2005 and 2017. Insider Intelligence estimates the telemental health market reached $746 million in 2021 — a 176% increase from its size in 2016.