As the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital services, so does the healthcare industry - and it's not just EHRs. More often, patients want to see their doctors from the comfort of their own homes. In previous generations, physicians would make house calls to see their patients, and although this practice died out in the late 20th century, virtual medicine is bringing the custom back.
With a webcam, a computer or a smartphone, patients can once again see their doctors without leaving home. This has been especially helpful in rural communities where the nearest doctor may be hours away. Many physicians have also seen the benefits of virtual medicine - but not everyone is convinced it's right for them.
How telemedicine is changing healthcare
Telemedicine is quickly becoming a standard offering from many healthcare organizations. According to The Washington Post, over 15 million Americans have received some form of remote care.
Here are a few quick stats:
- In 2016, 72 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of physician groups offered telemedicine services.
- In 2015, there were 1 million telemedicine visits in the U.S.
- Employers are taking notice. In 2016, 74 percent of U.S. employers offered telemedicine benefits.
Rural hospitals feel the positive impact of telemedicine the most. STAT News reported on a rural Texas hospital which uses telemedicine solutions to communicate with far-off specialists about high-risk cases. These solutions, along with other cost-saving measures, have kept the facility open in an industry landscape that's hostile to smaller organizations.
Virtual medicine impacts physician recruitment
When looking for a new position, physicians take telemedicine services into account. For many, these services are a blessing - they can set aside a few hours a week to hold virtual appointments with patients, which may reduce the number of costly no-shows. It allows them to keep patient engagement high. After all, patients are happy when they can skip a trip to the doctor's office for a minor concern or consultation.
Not all physicians are ready to make the switch to telemedicine, however. The American Council on Science and Health noted that some professionals are wary of the cost-saving benefits. Since no standardized methods of telemedicine exist, the results can vary widely from one practice to another. Likewise, some physicians may simply prefer face-to-face interactions with patients.
Physician recruitment strategies should be informed, in part, by the growing trend of virtual medicine. Recruiters should be upfront about how much telemedicine is involved in each job so that there are no surprises down the road. The mention of telemedicine in a job description could actually draw more applicants.
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