It's no secret that the healthcare industry is changing every day. Medical professionals and healthcare leaders are consistently pursuing ways to improve health outcomes, services, and costs.
One big advancement worth talking about is telemedicine. While it's not necessarily a new concept, telemedicine delivers both convenience and cost savings for many people, resulting in a recent surge in its popularity.
Here are five ways telemedicine is impacting healthcare:
1. Telemedicine can be a cost-effective option for patients.
The cost to receive telemedicine services will vary depending on your health insurance plan and the reason for your visit. Still, it tends to be a cheaper option than seeing a doctor in person.
In fact, one study one study estimated that patients save approximately $100 on an average telehealth visit, with $75 of that devoted to health care costs and the other $25 to travel and time spent seeking care.
HealthLeaders Media also reported savings between $309 to $1,500 in emergency room costs. So instead of going to the ER for something as simple as a cold, you can speak to a doctor by phone or video chat and receive the same treatment - potentially at a lower cost.
In certain cases for elderly care, a patient can receive rehabilitation at home rather than at a retirement home or assisted living facility. Some facilities use telemedicine monitoring through cameras and analytical software — which enabxles providers to gather data and hold remote consultations with the patient to monitor his or her treatment and overall health. This option can result in cost savings over time.
Some evidence also suggests that telemedicine may also improve healthcare outcomes for the elderly. Staying in the comfort of their own homes appears to increase their overall well-being.
2. Telemedicine increases patient engagement.
With telemedicine care, you can review your treatment plan and medical records in real-time, allowing you to ask questions to your assigned virtual doctor. Plus, scans and results can be sent directly to you.
Certain telemedicine companies have even created apps to better organize your medical information and health goals all in one place, which may help you:
Store personal health information and vital signs
Schedule medicine reminders
Record caloric intake and track physical activity
These time-saving technology measures encourage patients to become more engaged in their overall health. This is especially meaningful if you're dealing with a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart problems, or behavioral health.
3. Telemedicine expands access to care for rural residents.
Telemedicine can make an impact in rural areas, especially. Approximately 62 million Americans—or 1 in 5 people—live in rural areas, with just 9% of all physicians practicing in these settings. That means there’s room for improvement.
Our government leaders recognize these concerns, so they've invested significantly in expanding telemedicine services in small towns. One area of development is stroke prevention. Some research shows using telestroke networks in remote places helps reduce instances of strokes.
Telemedicine can offer convenient access to medical care that may not otherwise be available to rural residents. If you’re in a rural community, you may have to travel long distances or take precious time off of work to get the care you need.
So the bottom line is: Access to ongoing healthcare and monitoring services can improve health outcomes in rural areas.
4. Telemedicine makes healthcare more convenient
Let's face it: Visiting your doctor or dealing with unpredictable wait times at an urgent care facility isn't always convenient.
Instead, it's nice to get care from the comfort of your own home. Telemedicine may offer faster diagnosis and treatment since you can make an appointment online and avoid sitting in a waiting room. Or maybe you don't want to bump into other patients or spread your illness.
Telemedicine and telehealth services can happen 24/7, making them practical and convenient.
5. Telemedicine makes mental health services more accessible
Nearly 50% of adults in the United States will have a
mental health incident in their lifetime. But if you can't access mental health experts or are worried about the possible stigma of receiving care, you might avoid getting treatment.
Certain telemedicine services might include mental health services at a reasonable cost through teleconferencing, phone communication, or text messaging. Therapists can deliver cognitive therapy via video chat and send reminder messages to take medications, or forward the session recording to another specialist for a second opinion.
In many cases, telemedicine and telehealth mean the same thing: Health care delivered through technology. But telehealth services may have expanded coverage for certain illnesses, mental health support, and educational services. One well-known telemedicine company is Teladoc.
Treatment plans and methods vary, so it's important to know what's covered through your telemedicine provider.
What is telemedicine anyway?
Telemedicine combines traditional medical care with technology to deliver patient services remotely via phone call or online video chat - the method of communication is in the control of the patient. In other words, telemedicine offers patients easy access to doctors and specialists at any time.
Telemedicine delivers the same care you'd receive face-to-face without the hassle of traveling long distances, taking time off work, or being too sick to leave your home. And depending on your telemedicine plan, you may be able to talk to a doctor online within a few hours of signing up.
Anyone can take advantage of telemedicine, but the services provided may not fit all needs. Virtual doctors typically treat non-emergency illnesses such as:
Cold and flu
Nausea and vomiting
Skin conditions like hives and rashes
Women’s health issues
Men’s health issues
And if security and privacy is a concern, know that all telemedicine providers must be HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA requires that a patient's medical information remain confidential.
Telemedicine does not cover emergencies
If you have a cold or flu, consulting with an online doctor is a quick way to receive treatment. For those with sinus infections, strep throat, or bladder infections, you can benefit from telemedicine, too.
But if you have a life-threatening emergency or accident, telemedicine isn’t the answer. Some types of emergencies include broken bones, heart attacks, and strokes. For emergency medical concerns, calling 911 is always your best bet.
Telemedicine is available anywhere, any time
Telemedicine is for people living in urban and remote areas. Rural residents may have limited access to doctors and specialists, making telemedicine a good answer. Other people who benefit from telemedicine are people experiencing an insurance gap who need an affordable way to get basic medical care, or those unable to request time off work to see a doctor.
What does the future of telemedicine look like?
As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that the use of telemedicine will continue to increase. A white paper, published by FAIR Health, showed that telehealth grew by 1,393% between 2014 to 2018. That said, the future of telemedicine looks bright.
Still, there are some issues to overcome. The first is low awareness: Many people don't realize telemedicine might be a good option for them.
The second challenge is that people may shy away from the technological aspect. We're often used to the traditional face-to-face interactions with our doctors, so getting care online or by phone may make patients uncomfortable, even though it can be just as effective in many cases. Also, some health insurance companies don't offer telemedicine services quite yet.
Is telemedicine right for you?
The question of whether telemedicine is right for you depends on preferences and health situation. If you prefer face-to-face communication with a doctor or need more extensive care, it may not be the answer.
But if you live in a rural place, you're short on time, or in between health insurance coverage, telemedicine offers access, convenience, and lower cost. The choice is up to you and your health needs.
Get a telemedicine quote today
Though it's a relatively new concept to many, finding a telemedicine company is easier than you think.
Costs for telemedicine vary by age, gender, and location, ranging anywhere from $10 to $20 a month for individuals. Beyond this monthly fee, you also should consider costs for a telemedicine appointment. Start by getting a quote of costs and services provided through our telemedicine partner, Teladoc. Signing up is easy and takes only a few minutes.
Teladoc provides you with a national network of licensed medical professionals who can help you with routine care, personal wellness, physical therapy, mental health and more.