Telemedicine Is Not the Future: It’s the Present

If you ask most healthcare professionals about telemedicine, you’ll most likely receive a response indicating profound interest and support for these changes to the current healthcare system. Telemedicine has the ability to connect patients with doctors through the convenience of smartphones, computers, and the internet. And more and more doctors are adopting this innovative technology to treat their patients. It allows for a primary care or allied health professional to consult remotely with a patient and, if needed, a specialist assisting the primary care provider, to render a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

An increasing number of patients are expressing their interest in receiving treatment through telemedicine. A recent study showed that 77% of respondents would be treated virtually, but only 20% of them have actually done it. The healthcare market’s supply of telemedicine is not yet fulfilling consumer demand. But research suggests that the growth of the telemedicine market is about to soar.

Who is Using Telemedicine?

The impact of telemedicine is already increasing exponentially. Currently, over half of all U.S hospitals now use some form of telemedicine, a number predicted to increase with the profound number of healthcare services that can be offered through telemedicine. And aside from just hospitals, over 90% of healthcare executives have already begun developing or implementing a telemedicine program into their organizations. Through these technologies, doctors can provide treatment for chronic disease management, mental/behavioral health, rehabilitation, dermatology, radiology, primary care, vision care, etc. It’s no surprise that its influence is becoming so widespread.

Currently, there are over 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the U.S. To put that into perspective, just speaking in terms of cardiac care, almost one million Americans are currently using remote cardiac monitors. Think about the other millions of patients using telemedicine for other types of treatment. As consumers continue to search for low-cost and convenient treatment options, healthcare facilities that offer such types of treatment will likely be rewarded with numerous patients’ business. Telemedicine’s reach extends far beyond just the U.S., with over 2.1 million people receiving annual diabetic retinopathy telemedicine exams in the U.K. Such exams have significantly reduced the cases of new blindness amongst adults.

The increasing impact of telemedicine - Smart Vision Labs Infographic

Why You Should Take Part in the Telemedicine Revolution

Despite some controversy surrounding telemedicine — with certain Doctors skeptical that patients will rely solely on these new technologies and neglect their necessary in-person checkups — many doctors are embracing these new technologies, believing that telemedicine is shaping the future of healthcare by facilitating their single largest goal: treating as many people as possible. And thanks to telemedicine, this is now more possible than ever. The benefits of becoming a telemedicine doctor are seemingly endless. Take a look at these five aspects that telemedicine doctors’ consider to be the best parts of the job:

Helping as many patients as possible:

Telemedicine helps bridge the often large gap between doctors and patients. Through managing both time and distance, these technologies provide on-call care while transferring unnecessary in-person visits to the convenience of virtual ones. In particular, people living in rural areas who are hindered by mobility or transportation issues are now at greater ease to receive care. Geography and time constraints no longer play such a large factor in patient treatment. From a global standpoint, there are endless people being treated through telemedicine. Around the world, millions of patients use telemedicine to monitor their vital signals. Think of the benefits to patients in third-world countries with little to no access to healthcare. Telemedicine helps to solve this fundamental problem of the scarcity of doctors in certain parts of the world.

Recognizing the potential to treat hundreds of more patients, both in the U.S. and globally, many doctors are expressing interest in taking part in these cutting-edge healthcare technologies. In fact, 89% of healthcare executives predict that telemedicine will transform the U.S. healthcare system in the next decade. And the increasing trend of the number of doctors joining telemedicine networks mirrors this very prediction.

Financial gains:

Many doctors see telemedicine as a way to earn supplemental income. Without telemedicine, doctors might actually be losing some potential revenue. Telemedicine allows for doctors to earn extra income from the convenience of their own home. As it is, doctors don’t get paid for the time spent writing prescriptions and discussing medical treatment with patients demonstrating non-critical symptoms over the phone. That time spent is taking away from the time they could be spending with patients who are physically in their waiting room, in need of in-person, more serious treatment. So imagine if doctors could be paid for writing those prescriptions and speaking with those patients over the phone? Well, they can, thanks to telemedicine.

Time-effective for both doctors and patients:

A recent study shows that the average wait-time for a new patient to see a physician in metropolitan cities is 18.5 days. Telemedicine helps to solve some of that wait-time by offering exams that take just minutes. A 2015 Software Advice survey found that 97% of patients were upset at long wait times at the doctor. By offering a quicker and more convenient alternative, patients are much more likely to get frequent checkups and seek treatment from doctors. Optical telemedicine has specifically addressed the issue of inefficient vision exams, allowing patients to obtain an updated eyeglass or contact lens prescription in a much more timely manner. Smart Vision Exams take just 5 minutes, with no appointment necessary, while also eliminating the need for a doctor to be conducting the exam. By being able to review the exam results at their own convenience, doctor’s are able to prescribe eye prescriptions much quicker and in much greater volume. Smart Vision Lab’s CEO, Yaopeng Zhou, even predicts that just one telemedicine doctor could write a number of prescriptions ten times that of a doctor in a traditional healthcare system. With efficiency improvements to both patients and doctors, telemedicine significantly benefits both parties.

Reduces unnecessary in-person visits:

One of the primary issues that telemedicine tries to address is reducing the number of unnecessary in-person doctor visits. A recent study found that almost 75% of all doctor, urgent care, or ER visits are either unnecessary or could be handled effectively over a telecommunications platform. By eliminating some of these visits, doctors will be able to devote more time and efforts to providing treatment for patients that are in need of in-person care. Telemedicine essentially serves as large-scale director of traffic: sending patients to either an in-person or virtual visit, depending on their health status and the nature of their request.

As far as eye care goes, some states require patients to get an in-person eye exam in order to receive an updated contact lens prescription. But doctors from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association of Optometry suggest that healthy, asymptomatic adults don’t need an annual comprehensive eye exam. Some observers have expressed concern that prescribing eyewear remotely will lead to a reduction in the number of necessary comprehensive eye exams. However, neither evidence nor logic supports withholding improved vision from a patient to coerce a more detailed eye exam.

Many patients actually prefer it:

Many people are focused on finding more convenient, cheaper alternatives. Telemedicine exams appeal to patients precisely because of the ease and accessibility of them. Doctors are noticing that these exams are resulting in more involved, proactive patients, seeking more regular treatment. A recent study showed that 7 out of 10 patients prefer to get common prescriptions via video visits. And again, another study showed that 77% of people are interested in trying telemedicine appointments. Healthcare providers that offer such convenient and time-efficient options are likely to receive increased business from patients looking for these services.

Why you should become a telemedicine doctor - Smart Vision Labs Infographic

The future of telemedicine

The role and support of doctors in the continuance of telemedicine are vital to its success. As more patients are likely to seek providers that allow them to receive treatment at their own convenience, more doctors are likely to get on board with such technologies. Telemedicine is not just the future, it’s the present. But it continues to have substantial potential for even more growth. With care providers interested in reaping the numerous benefits from telemedicine, we are certain that the supply of telehealth doctors will quickly meet its ever-growing consumer demand, and will truly revitalize the healthcare delivery model for generations to come.

Learn more about implementing telemedicine with these related posts:

Who Should Be Involved in Implementing Telemedicine?
Is a Telemedicine Solution Right for Your Optical Store?
How to Get your Company on Board with Telemedicine Vision Exams
Questions About Ocular Telemedicine?
Telemedicine Myths and the Truths Behind Them