Telemedicine is the New Normal in the Health Care Industry

Opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

Telemedicine is the broader definition of a practice that enables physicians to provide health-related support to their patients using audio and video technology. We also use telemedicine and virtual care to discuss the non-clinical services offered in this area.

Telemedicine is revolutionizing healthcare in the United States and many industrialized nations. The convenience, cost-effectiveness, and personalized nature of this healthcare option make it a viable, and in some cases preferred, choice for many patients who need medical assistance but have difficulty reaching physicians or practitioners within their geographic limits.

When supported in most healthcare settings, telemedicine can greatly improve access to medical care and the efficiency of doctor visits, allowing physicians and practitioners to treat more patients in need.

See also: Why telemedicine is the future of healthcare

The healthcare industry faces many harsh realities as the United States finds its way out of a global healthcare crisis. These include overwhelmed medical facilities, fewer health care staff and physicians, increased operational and benefit costs, and high risks for vulnerable populations who could be exposed to other diseases if they stay in health care facilities for long periods of time.

Recent data compiled by the US Department of Health and Human Services showed 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 benefits, including the following:

  • Improved access to doctors and general practitioners
  • Less burnout among doctors
  • Reduction of on-site waiting times due to the ability to screen and pre-assess patients when a hospital visit is required.
  • Convenience of being at home (patient and provider)
  • Cost and time savings
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Of course, in addition to the benefits mentioned above, telemedicine and telehealth also come with their challenges.

Some of them are:

  • 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 present challenges for physicians and practitioners in providing an accurate diagnosis when they cannot make full assessments themselves and must rely on the patient to provide correct or complete information.
  • It may not be a good substitute for personal care for more serious medical conditions.
  • Lack of insurance coverage for telemedicine services.
  • Policies and legal restrictions limit how care is provided and in what environments.

The benefits seem to outweigh the challenges. This could explain why the demand and use of these services has increased dramatically.

Prior to 2020, telemedicine saw a steady rise in hospital settings. According to a February 2019 fact sheet released by the American Hospital Association, “76 percent of U.S. hospitals are remotely connecting with patients and treating physicians 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 telemedicine use in 2020. An increase from about 840,000 patients in 2019 to almost 52.7 million in 2020.

This growth reflects 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 showed that telemedicine was most prevalent among behavioral health professionals.

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“Behavioral health visits showed the largest increase in telemedicine in 2020. Telemedicine accounted for a third of all behavioral health visits.”

With this knowledge, practitioners, insurance companies and organizations can use this data to support their customers, employees and patients by tailoring service options to their unique needs. Ensuring that policies are created or modified to meet this demand can move these stakeholders further to capitalize on this growing trend. It will further help them to create value for their patients/customers.

Expanding access for ethnic minorities and rural patients

One of the challenges in using telemedicine is the apparent digital divide, which puts some groups at a disadvantage over others. For example, a statistic from the Medicare Telehealth Report indicates that black people used telehealth services the least.

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

As for rural users, limited access to broadband services and doctors hampers their ability to fully participate in telemedicine. Therefore, when creating or revising policies, insurers, corporations, Medicare and Medicaid providers should consider these limitations to improve their participation.

See also: The future of healthcare is in the cloud

The future is hybrid

The global telemedicine market generated US$40.20 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach US$431.82 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 25.9% from 2021-2030

All stakeholders in the industry must be ready to address the challenges and opportunities for innovation and create policies, systems and processes to keep up with this demand.

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

Policy changes to support telemedicine

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

There are many legal and political considerations that need to be taken into account. Some of these include protecting the integrity of the healthcare system through the monitoring and monitoring of professional accreditation, online prescribing, privacy and security concerns, and combating fraud and abuse.

The global health crisis forced policymakers to abandon existing Medicare and Medicaid rules so patients could get support when and where they needed it most.

Looking ahead, the growth in the telemedicine industry is unprecedented. It has the potential to significantly improve patient care and positively change the direction of the healthcare sector, provided all stakeholders seize the opportunity.

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