Healthcare professionals have become more accustomed to telemedicine since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, there were 260+ telehealth networks in 2020.
Telemedicine combines teleconferencing, file-sharing, and mobile technology to improve healthcare delivery. And it’s not going away soon. Research firm Statistica has forecast the global market for telemedicine to grow from $50 billion in 2019 to nearly $460 billion by 2030.
Where are healthcare professionals seeing the biggest disruptions? Let’s take a look at three key areas telemedicine is changing life for HCPs.
At the Hospital
While most people think of telemedicine as primarily a remote delivery system, it also improves how care is delivered on-site as well.
Telemedicine technology provides multiple sets of eyes for emergency room or ICU care teams who may be treating multiple patients at once within a hectic environment. This helps to avoid missing a medication dose, identify sudden changes in a patient’s condition, and other important signals that could be missed during a frenzied period.
Telemedicine has improved collaboration between medical facilities, allowing HCPs in one setting to lean on outside resources to help diagnose and even treat patients. Shared patient history, current status, and available interventions reduce demands on in-house teams, allowing them to focus on the most urgent needs.
Typically, HCPs are assigned patients based on demand and resources at local facilities. With the ability to share files and insights across locations, patient load can be more manageable in densely populated areas.
Following a Visit
A primary strength of telemedicine is its ability to reduce in-person visits for situations that can be managed remotely. That can be seen most notably in post-visit scenarios.
At-Home Rehab Assistance
When patients are discharged from the hospital, the care process continues. Follow up care can put demands on already strained staffing levels. Telemedicine has made it more manageable for HCPs to monitor and conduct remote rehab sessions without the need to meet in person.
Self-Management of Chronic Conditions
For patients suffering from chronic conditions, patient self-management using telemedicine can be supported by remote staff. This reduces dependence on HCPs to physically assist with managing these conditions during visits. In these situations, HCPs have more time to attend to urgent demands and patients have more confidence to treat their conditions.
Preventative Care Uptake
Through telemedicine, patients can be routinely encouraged to practice and sustain healthy habits, leading to improvements in preventative care. With more convenient access to follow-up services, rapid diagnostics, and remote consultations, hospitals experience fewer admissions, delays, or lengthy inpatient stays – reducing the strain on their workforce.
Serving the Community
Beyond the benefits for healthcare facilities, HCPs can now provide a more robust level of care for their local communities thanks to telemedicine.
Improved Access to Specialists
For hospitals with limited staffing, telemedicine opens access to a broader community of HCP resources. For example, historically a doctor making a referral would say to a patient, “you need to see a neurologist” and provide contact details for the patient to pursue. Now, the doctor can put a patient in contact almost immediately, shortening the time to make the connection with a specialist.
Patients can experience a medical situation far from home – on vacation, a business trip, or visiting family. In these cases, for an HCP to take in a patient locally. Telemedicine enables physicians to provide certain levels of care without the need to see patients at the office or hospital.
Leveling Up Rural Care
Rural hospitals with declining populations were at risk of closing at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Even without the backdrop of the coronavirus, recruitment to rural facilities is challenging. Telemedicine programs such as Project ECHO are allowing HCPs to increase provider capacity in rural areas. These initiatives not only reduce demands on local staff, but also help sustain compensation under the fee-for-service payment structure, which requires HCPs to provide care to receive funding.