The new era of telemedicine is bringing untapped growth opportunities for the overall healthcare industry. Telemedicine has gained significant traction over the past few years and is expected to grow at the same pace. But what is telemedicine? The word. ‘telemedicine’ is a wide concept. Thus, let’s dive deeper into the thorough definition of telemedicine, along with its benefits, scope, limitations, and potential.
Telemedicine is the combination of “tele” and “medicine.” “Tele” is a Greek word that means “far”. Telemedicine encompasses a variety of technologies that help promotes the remote provision of specific health services.
Telemedicine has proved its immediate benefits for more frail cases and those with chronic diseases, allowing millions of patients to continue their treatment programs without the need to visit overcrowded hospitals. Here is the list of factors driving the new era of telemedicine:
Potential of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has a huge potential and is expected to benefit the patients and doctors in the coming years. The wide scope of telemedicine is majorly due to its flexibility, safety, and cost-efficiency.
One of the most tempting aspects of telemedicine is the independence it provides doctors and patients. Patients do not need to pay regular visits to doctors in order to have efficient treatment. In this case, patients can interact with doctors through smartphones, laptops, or other smart devices. Telemedicine also allows users to avoid long and inconvenient travel times. Moreover, people residing in rural locations can have their treatment done from a far distance.
Telemedicine also makes efficient use of time by eliminating the long hours spent waiting. It increases the patient’s access to a larger number of doctors. Moreover, patients no longer require to wait for months to see a specialist in person. In fact, they can connect to specialists within seconds by using technology.
Telemedicine is substantially less expensive than typical office visits as it eliminates travel costs. According to a study by the American Hospital Association, a telemedicine program saved 11% in expenditures and more than tripled the return on investment for its owners. Apart from that, it also reduces the no-show appointment fees and eliminates the need for office space overhead.
In order to stay competitive in the telemedicine industry, vendors are working on innovative, outperforming strategies. Service providers are engaging in partnerships, collaborations, acquisitions, mergers, and product launches. For example, Morneau Shepell unveiled its first unified telemedicine solution in the United States in 2020. AMD Global Telemedicine Inc. also cooperated with iTelemed. iTelemed offers virtual healthcare solutions, and this partnership aims at meeting the unmet healthcare requirements of Canada’s vulnerable communities.
Patient Safety in Telemedicine
Patient safety is crucial, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic has significantly raised the need for digitalization. The pandemic has substantially highlighted the need to maintain social distance. Hospitals and clinics were occupied with COVID-19-affected patients. Since it is a contagious disease, people were afraid of visiting public places. Thus, the demand for telemedicine increased considerably.
Doctors can lay hold of patients’ previous health records, which makes it easy for them to prescribe medicine. Health records are crucial for undergoing or upcoming treatments.
Limitations of Telemedicine
Every coin has two sides, and telemedicine is not an exception. Telemedicine has a limited number of physical checks and does not assess vital signs. It is beneficial to identify patients having instruments like a weight scale, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and thermometer. However, it becomes difficult for patients who do not have access to these technologies. These devices are relatively inexpensive, and the expenses are occasionally covered by insurance. Although, there are high chances of issues with the technology, like calibration, human error, etc.
Apart from that, emergency situations can arise due to frequent visits to the hospitals. Thus, there is a high need to have emergency protocols (medical and mental health) in place when conducting telemedicine visits.
Future of Telemedicine
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the growth of telemedicine and is expected to bring untapped opportunities for the industry in the coming years. According to a study by Astute Analytica, the global telemedicine market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.4% during the forecast period from 2021 to 2027. The future of the telemedicine industry heavily relies on technological advancements and public awareness. Companies are significantly working over new launches and strategic partnerships to cater to the demands of the population. For instance, MediTelecare unveiled its “MediTely” in the market in 2021. MediTely is considered to be the direct-to-consumer mobile health technology aimed at catering to the demands of the elderly population that lives outside long-term care facilities. Further, Teladoc Health also inked a partnership agreement with Vivo in 2021. This partnership aims to enhance access to quality healthcare with the use of telemedicine in Brazil.
Countries are also witnessing the growing scope of telemedicine due to rising government efforts. Authorities in various countries have launched projects aimed at recognizing the potential of technology in healthcare. For instance, The Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) program in the UK is a two-year research project aimed at determining the ways technology can help people manage their own health. The Department of Health is funding this program.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has increased Medicare telehealth services, allowing beneficiaries to access a wider spectrum of healthcare professionals without the need to visit a medical facility. Began in March 6, 2020, Medicare will cover hospital, office, and other telehealth visits provided in patients’ areas of residence across the country. This is expected to be beneficial to the market in question.
AMD Global, in 2021, also announced a partnership with PointClickCare Technologies. PointClickCare Technologies is among the global providers of cloud-based software solutions, and this partnership aims at providing long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) to patients. Apart from that, BioTelemetry Inc. and Royal Philips also inked a definitive merger agreement in December 2020.