Telemedicine is the new normal in the healthcare industry

Telemedicine is the new normal in the healthcare industry

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the contributors are theirs.

Telemedicine is the broader definition of a practice that enables medical clinicians to provide health-related support to their clients using audio and video technology. We also use telehealth and virtual care to discuss the non-clinical services offered in this space.

Telemedicine is revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare in the United States and in many developed countries. The convenience, cost-effectiveness and personalized nature of this health care option make it a viable choice and, in some cases, the preferred choice for many patients who need medical support but have difficulty accessing doctors or practitioners within their geographical limits.

If supported in most healthcare settings, telemedicine can dramatically improve access to medical care and the efficiency of medical visits so that doctors and practitioners can care for more patients. patients in need.

Related: Why Telemedicine is the Future of Healthcare

The healthcare industry faces many harsh realities as the United States emerges from a global health crisis. These include overwhelmed medical facilities, fewer health service workers and doctors, increased costs of operating and delivering services, and high risks to vulnerable members of the community. population that could be exposed to other diseases with prolonged presence in health facilities.

Recent data compiled by the US Department of Health and Human Services revealed a dramatic increase in demand and use of telemedicine during and after the global health crisis.

Advantages and disadvantages of telemedicine

Telemedicine and telehealth have many advantages, including the following:

  • Improved access to doctors and general practitioners
  • Reduced physician burnout
  • Reduced in-person wait times with the ability to triage and pre-assess patients if a hospital visit is required.
  • Convenience of being at home (patient and provider)
  • saving time and money

In addition to the above advantages, telemedicine and telehealth naturally come with their challenges.

Some of them include:

  • Virtual consultations require access to technology, and the digital divide between those who have it and those who don’t can limit access for vulnerable members of society.
  • Difficult diagnosis. Virtual diagnosis can challenge physicians and practitioners to provide an accurate diagnosis if they cannot perform comprehensive assessments themselves and must rely on the patient to provide correct or complete information.
  • It may not be a good substitute for in-person care for more serious medical conditions.
  • Lack of insurance coverage for telemedicine services.
  • Policies and legal restrictions limit how care is delivered and in what settings.

The benefits apparently outweigh the challenges. This could explain why there has been a dramatic increase in the demand and use of these services.

Prior to 2020, telemedicine was showing a steady increase in the hospital setting. According to a fact sheet published by the American Hospital Association in February 2019, “76% of US hospitals are connecting remotely with patients and consulting practitioners through video and other technologies.”

Significant increase in demand for behavioral services

Since then, recent statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services show a “63-fold increase” in the use of telemedicine in 2020. An increase from around 840,000 patients in 2019 to nearly 52.7 million in 2020.

This growth demonstrates increased awareness and availability of telemedicine services. While this growth has been monumental, the most notable increase has been in behavioral health services.

The data revealed that telehealth was more prevalent among behavioral health specialists.

“Visits to behavioral health specialists showed the largest increase in telehealth in 2020. Telehealth accounted for a third of total visits to behavioral health specialists.”

With this knowledge, practitioners, insurance companies and organizations can use this data to support their customers, workers and patients by customizing service options to meet their unique needs. Ensuring that policies are created or changed to meet this demand can put these stakeholders further forward to benefit from this growing trend. This will further help them add value to their patients/customers.

Expand access for racial minorities and rural patients

One of the challenges of using telemedicine is the apparent digital divide that disadvantages some groups over others. For example, a statistic from the Medicare Telehealth Report indicates that blacks were the least likely to use telehealth services.

With diversity and inclusion at the forefront of many conversations in the healthcare industry and workplaces, removing systemic and technological barriers could help improve the overall participation of this group.

For rural users, limited access to broadband services and practitioners hinders the ability to fully participate in telemedicine. Therefore, when creating or reviewing policies, insurers, businesses, Medicare and Medicaid providers should consider these limitations to improve their participation.

Related: The future of healthcare is in the cloud

The future is hybrid

The global telemedicine market generated USD 40.20 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 431.82 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 25.9% from 2021 to 2030

All industry stakeholders must be prepared to examine the challenges and opportunities to innovate and create policies, systems and processes to meet this demand.

The hybrid service delivery model that combines in-person delivery with digital care will be most effective in mitigating some challenges and maximizing benefits.

Policy changes supporting telemedicine

Policy changes through Medicare, Medicaid and insurance are being considered to expand access and change rules that would otherwise restrict who can participate in telemedicine.

There are many legal and policy considerations to take into account. Some of these include protecting the integrity of the healthcare system by monitoring and overseeing the licensing of professionals, online prescribing, privacy and security issues, and combating fraud and abuse.

The global health crisis has forced policymakers to waive existing Medicare and Medicaid rules so patients can get help when and where they need it most.

Going forward, the growth of the telemedicine industry is unprecedented. It has the potential to dramatically improve patient care and positively change the direction of the healthcare sector, provided all stakeholders seize this opportunity.

Related: 3 best telemedicine stocks for investors

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