The booming telemedicine business is the future of healthcare. In 2019, more than 75% of US hospitals used video services to connect with their patients. Telemedicine popularity grew rapidly in the late 2010s, but the advent of COVID-19 spurred many to try telemedicine for the first time. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, there were over 1,500,000 telemedicine visits. 61% of Americans have now had at least one telemedicine appointment, tripling since March 2020.
Telemedicine is almost 100 years old but is only now becoming mainstream. A brief timeline of telemedicine begins in the 1920s when radio was used to provide medical advice to marine clinicians. In the 1960s, primary and emergency services were broadcast via microwave. The 1990s saw an increase in the use of video conferencing in healthcare and the growth of new technology is where telemedicine is today.
Telemedicine offers innovative solutions to improve the access and quality of medical care. It can help control and diagnose diseases with low incidence. Apps and phone devices like MedWand, Headspace, and AliveCor provide patient home diagnostic tools, mental health services, and electrocardiograms. Wearables like clothing with embedded sensors, smartwatches, and oncological mHealth Intelligence enable individuals to constantly monitor their health. Finally, mail-in laboratories allow people to test for allergies, genetic information, food intolerances, and COVID-19.
Telemedicine has faced many challenges, but has continued to develop despite these contrasting obstacles. Currently, 41% of patients have limited access to the Internet, but federal broadband initiatives are solving this problem. There have been issues with licensing too, but recent legislation allows telemedicine practitioners to reach across state lines. Concerns about misdiagnosis have subsided after studies found no significant difference between personal and telemedical diagnoses. Even public skepticism has subsided; The majority of studies show that patients today prefer telemedicine to face-to-face visits.
The benefits of telemedicine and telemedicine
One of the greatest advantages of telemedicine is improved access. Telemedicine helps those in need by implementing programs that serve high-risk and rural populations; By using telemedicine, patients can save up to three hours commuting or 100 kilometers driven. Telemedicine initiatives increase cost parity in healthcare. Telemedicine has also expanded access to acute care; 59% of Medicare patients now have access to a laptop.
Virtual health systems also reduce costs. Patients save time and money by eliminating the need to go to the doctor’s office and take time off work. 31% of people using telemedicine platforms say that using remote services has reduced their healthcare costs. These reduced health care costs have a savings estimate of anywhere between 17% and 75%.
Telemedicine will continue to boom. Currently, over three-quarters of patients would consider telemedicine. Now that many Americans have tried it, most want these services to continue. 80% of patients believe that telemedicine offers the same quality of care as face-to-face visits, up from 56% before the pandemic. Patients now expect their doctors to deploy telemedicine and digital tools, and 83% expect to use telemedicine after the pandemic subsides. The future of healthcare is just a few taps away.