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By T. Scott Law Sr.
The impact of technology in healthcare cannot be overstated. Specifically, telemedicine has seen incredible growth in recent years — especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors’ appointments conducted over the phone or through videoconference increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. While only about 11% of patients had tried telemedicine before the pandemic, that number climbed to 46% after social distancing requirements limited most in-person appointments.
Last year’s unprecedented events spurred telehealth industry growth, but it won’t stop there. Estimates from McKinsey & Company suggest that up to $250 billion worth of current healthcare spending could shift to virtual avenues. Meanwhile, The Business Research Company expects the telemedicine market to balloon from nearly $50 billion in 2019 to about $194 billion by 2023 — expanding by more than 40% per year.
What the Pandemic Revealed About Telemedicine
The recent spike in patient adoption of telehealth has shown us that healthcare technology can improve the patient experience and quality of care. It creates convenient ways for patients to access medical advice and fits nicely into the emerging push toward healthcare consumerism, which focuses on providers orienting healthcare delivery with end users in mind.
Patients have embraced telemedicine wholeheartedly because it feels like a service built for their needs, which isn’t always the case in healthcare. It’s no wonder adoption rates and patient enthusiasm have gone up so quickly.
Telemedicine also has the potential to expand access to healthcare in widespread, significant ways. Patients who live in remote areas, lack access to transportation, or struggle to leave their homes can still get quality care via telehealth tools. Likewise, doctors can use telemedicine to upgrade their care standards and increase the number of patients they see.
Five Obstacles Blocking the Future of Telemedicine
The advantages of telehealth for patients and providers alike all but ensures it will grow rapidly in the coming years. But it’s important to know the challenges that might accompany that growth to ensure you’re prepared for everything coming down the pike. Here are five key obstacles to keep in mind:
1Access to technology.
Not every patient has a smartphone or a high-speed internet connection. Providers should understand that access to technology and tech literacy can present real barriers to the patient adoption of telehealth.
Don’t limit telemedicine to urgent care only. It’s also appropriate for patients seeking routine care, mental health screenings, chronic condition checkups, and more. Providers should carefully consider where and how telemedicine fits into healthcare delivery.
As patients have more options, they’ll gravitate toward solutions that meet their needs regarding care, accessibility, cost, etc. It will be critical to build telemedicine services with medical, technical, and consumer considerations in mind.
One of the many advantages of telehealth for patients is the potential for care to be more affordable while still being lucrative for providers. For both parties, billing may work differently than it did under the traditional healthcare model. Consider the financial implications before rolling out a comprehensive telehealth offering.
5Lapses in acute care.
Acute care involving hands-on or close-up examination and diagnosis isn’t a good fit for telemedicine. Aim for a hybrid approach that uses remote appointments whenever possible but keeps nurses and doctors available to meet with patients for in-person appointments.
Telemedicine has proven its value, and the impact of technology in healthcare is clear. For the healthcare industry to continue to grow and evolve, everyone will have to come together to embrace, adopt, and advance telemedicine for the benefit of all.
T. Scott Law Sr., CPA, is the founder and CEO of Zotec Partners. His mission is to partner with healthcare providers and their patients across the country to simplify the business of healthcare and continually innovate the patient financial experience.