Telemedicine is a growing trend in healthcare, this is reflected in the rise of telemedicine services attracting substantial funding from venture capital firms. Telemedicine is the use of mobile, video, live chats, apps, and other technology for a consultation with a doctor or other healthcare providers.
Patients can chat, message, or speak to a doctor in real time without going to the clinic in person.
For example, they can cover general advice, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, medication management, and specialist consultations. As such, telemedicine can be both a powerful alternative to traditional healthcare.
It can also be an important complement to in-person consultations. In light of this, what are some of the ways telemedicine can impact consumers and healthcare providers?
How Healthcare Services Can Be Consumed
Telemedicine is changing how healthcare services can be consumed and delivered. The internet, video conferencing, and mobile devices enables patients and providers to connect and consult without the need for travel.
Internet of things telehealth equipment supports at-home monitoring for patients who need real-time oversight. Even everyday devices like smartphones can be used for diagnostic photos that can support the telemedicine healthcare provider in making an accurate diagnosis.
Telemedicine enables a constant, ongoing relationship between consumers and providers even if patients can’t travel to clinics and facilities. For example, startups are offering a wide variety of healthcare services through virtual channels.
Hair loss treatments, online counselling, urgent care, fertility treatments, and even genomic medicine can be accessed online, with prescriptions or care products delivered to your door.
For those seeking mental health support, telemedicine can offer access to trained counsellors for private conversational therapy without physical visits.
More Efficient Healthcare
Telemedicine is helping both consumers and providers with a more efficient healthcare experience. Issues can be dealt with faster and waiting times reduced. Video visits can allow doctors to attend to more patients who don’t need in-person diagnostics.
Wearable technology and telemedicine equipment can allow providers to better monitor patients. This efficiency can be achieved without compromising the quality of care.
In turn, this can improve consumer access and expand the provider’s reach. It can minimise healthcare costs, facility demand, and admissions.
Reducing demand for physical healthcare facilities can make in-person services more efficient, by making more staff and resources available for urgent and serious illnesses.
Other efficiency gains associated with telemedicine could relate to improved prevention through accessible health guidance and coaching.
Telemedicine could facilitate personalised care on demand, especially when supported by remote monitoring and availability of real-time patient health data.
Studies show prescription rates for telemedicine are similar to rates for in-person care. Readmission rates tend to be lower or similar. Consultation costs can be many times cheaper than in-person options.
Additionally, patient wait times to see a doctor or for specialist referrals can be dramatically lowered, from days to just minutes or hours.
As such, telemedicine solutions could be used to address common healthcare sector issues like doctor shortages, healthcare costs, and administrative overload.
Increase In Demand For Healthcare Professionals
Since telemedicine can make it easier and cheaper to access healthcare when and where consumers need it, it can boost demand for healthcare professionals.
This could support better healthcare outcomes because consumers are seeking treatment rather than avoiding it because of cost concerns or geographical distance.
Related to this is the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to heart disease, some of which are related to sedentary lifestyles.
Additionally, people with mobility challenges and seniors might prefer to receive home-based care when it’s available. This could make them more inclined to access services when they need it.
At the same time, providers could more easily scale up to meet this growing demand. This is due to the fact the existing telecommunications infrastructure provides a ready channel for delivery and telemedicine eliminates the need to build more physical facilities.
More Flexible Healthcare Options For Consumers
Just as on-demand rides and food delivery have given consumers convenience, it’s now easier to access healthcare services on demand.
For example, some telemedicine startups offer the option to sign up through an app and real-time message a doctor or clinician for anything from birth control to nicotine addiction.
Any necessary treatment products can then be sent by post. Doctors can send out blood tests, colon cancer tests, at-home STI and pregnancy testing kits, and other products.
For urban consumers, these services can be convenient and time saving. However, for rural and remote consumers, they could be essential and even critical, by providing accessibility to a wide range of healthcare providers on demand.
Telemedicine Benefits Both Consumers & Providers
One of telemedicines most obvious benefits is eliminating the need to travel physically for healthcare. However, the rise of telemedicine doesn’t merely benefit consumers.
It can give healthcare providers – from doctors and nurses to clinics and facility owners – a broader reach, helping them provide care to patients in need at a lower cost and more efficiently.
In the process, telemedicine can empower facilities to direct their resources to better serve those who do need in-clinic treatment.
At the same time, telemedicine has its challenges and drawbacks. These could include privacy, data theft, and security issues as well as quality of care concerns.
Given this, providers operating in the space must be committed to protecting patients’ rights and data integrity while ensuring their telemedicine services fulfil the highest quality standards.
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Samuel is currently studying at the University of Technology Sydney. In his spare time he works as a freelance writer covering topics such as business, health and education. He has been featured on sites such as ValueWalk and International Career Institute.