Currently, more than 70 percent of consumers would rather see a health care provider via video link than visit in person.
This compelling statistic comes from a leading provider of data and analytics on the healthcare market, Definitive Healthcare, which conducted its fifth annual Inpatient Telehealth Study in 2017. The findings indicate that the adoption of telehealth services has surged since the study was first performed.
What is telehealth, anyway?
Telehealth has the potential to bring the doctor to the patient, regardless of where each is physically located. Telehealth platforms are especially important to improve access to specialty care services such as pediatrics, dermatology, gerontology, physiotherapy, and more.
There are currently far fewer specialists than primary care physicians, and they tend to cluster in urban areas with a large pool of local patients. People living in rural, less-populated areas often have difficulty accessing specialist services in person, and welcome the opportunity to communicate with physicians remotely.
It’s partly for this reason that many medical professionals now offer telehealth services online to consumers. Telehealth companies have found a growing market in licensing their platforms to individual doctors — a business model that allows specialists to build networks of patients that extend far beyond those who could regularly travel to see them.
Remote monitoring technology, meanwhile, can provide data to supplement personal communication. Patients benefit from telehealth by receiving healthcare in the comfort of their own homes at a pre-scheduled time of their choosing.
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Telehealth is here to stay
Telehealth was an almost $22B industry in 2017, and is expected to reach a staggering $93.45B by 2026.
Telehealth programs in hospitals have been successful across the country. Every U.S. state now has a telestroke network that links smaller, rural hospitals to large, urban ones. When a small hospital with no neurologist on staff receives a patient with symptoms of a stroke, they connect to a neurologist via the telestroke video feed.
This vital service helps limit brain damage in the patient in the crucial post-injury time frame, because the specialist can quickly diagnose the stroke and prescribe the appropriate medication. Some hospitals are now using similar telehealth platforms for other specialties, such as cancer care and neonatal intensive care.
Healthcare systems are also using telehealth networks to give primary care doctors access to specialty consultants. This lets doctors confirm a diagnosis in a specialist’s area and start treatment, rather than referring the patient on.
This form of telehealth benefits patients in several ways: they don’t have to go to a follow-up appointment with a specialist for a condition that’s diagnosable remotely; they can be treated right away rather than waiting to see a consultant first; and they don’t have to spend weeks worrying about what might be wrong with them.
The adoption of telehealth services has great potential for enhancing communication between physician and patient, as well as physician and consultant. Hospitals, private practices, and medical centers are all finding new ways to use telehealth platforms to engage patients in their healthcare and to improve patient outcomes. Telehealth solutions and services continue to offer exciting new benefits to doctors, patients, and healthcare systems alike.