Telehealth has been on the rise for the last 40 years or so and is quickly starting to makes its impact. Although some critics say it has been slow to take off, numerous recent reports and surveys have shown the effectiveness of the field, its numerous applications, and its foreshadowed rise in the next decade.
As the new generation of physicians enters the medical field, increased physician involvement in the field of telemedicine is expected. Medscape recently conducted a survey of 1,700 medical residents from 24 different specialties and found that 70 percent of residents would feel comfortable participating in videoconferences with patients. In fact, they were open to additional forms of digital communication — 60 percent of the residents were comfortable with contacting a patient via phone and 56 percent felt comfortable communicating through email.
Physicians are not the only ones leaning towards the field; a recent publication in the Pharmacy Times explains that telehealth has many different applications in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the ability for telemedicine to extend care outside normal pharmacy hours allows patients and/or their caregivers to connect to an available remote pharmacist at the time they are administering their medication and ask any questions they may have. In addition to these patient-initiated consultations, telehealth allows for pharmacist-initiated consultations and pharmacist-to-pharmacist consultations.
The technology making all of this possible is also growing in popularity. A recent report from Tractica anticipated a growth in the global market for home health technologies from $3.4 billion in 2014 to more than $13.7 billion by 2020, with remote medical consultations constituting the largest portion of this revenue. Home health technology is defined as connected devices, services, and applications used outside the clinical setting for medical, health, or wellness purposes. Highlighted as an effective means of reducing healthcare costs and producing better patient outcomes, this telehealth technology is expected to enhance almost every aspect of the healthcare system in the next decade.
Despite telehealth’s rising reputation in the field of medicine, there has been one limiting factor: patient adaptability. A recent HealthMine survey of 1,200 consumers reported that 41 percent of consumers have never heard of telemedicine. This unfortunate statistic has highlighted the need for increased exposure of telemedicine.
Luckily, there is positive news. According to the same HealthMine survey, 45 percent of respondents said that they would use telemedicine once explained and offered to them. An additional survey from Technology Advice showed that about 35 percent of consumers would even prefer a virtual visit over an in-person one. As the field of telehealth becomes mainstream, these numbers are expected to increased. But first, more patients need to know that telehealth is an option!
A possible solution? Employers. A recent survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health showed a sharp increase in telehealth use by large employers in the upcoming year. According to the survey, the percent of employers offering telehealth services to employees will increase from the current 48 percent to 74 percent in the next year. This may be just the type of exposure that telemedicine needs!
With advancements and positive feedback from the various sectors of the healthcare field, telemedicine has entered a new age. As more and more patients begin to utilize home health technology and telemedicine consultations, medicine as we know it will be changing — for the better.