How Telemedicine is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

October 31, 2019

First Stop Health

Telemedicine is rapidly redefining healthcare. By helping people talk to doctors anytime, from anywhere, telemedicine improves access to care for Americans nationwide. In a broken healthcare system, this innovation is proving vital. 

Here’s how telemedicine is transforming the healthcare industry. 

Telemedicine and Access to Doctors

The Problem: If you have ever found that you can’t see a new primary care doctor for at least a week, you don’t need to be told about doctor shortages. You already know the waiting period to see a doctor is growing longer. In fact, the US is projected to be short 121,300 doctors by 2030. 

As many Americans do not have a regular doctor, their first visit to a new primary care physician will only be delayed further every year. A recent study found that the average wait for a new patient  scheduling an appointment with a family care doctor in large cities has increased by 50% over the past three years, and now averages 29 days. In some cities, the wait time is even longer: In Boston, for example, the average wait is 109 days — again, that’s on average. 

A Better Approach: While telemedicine cannot solve this national problem, it can help address it. 

It does this by helping employees and their family members get 24/7 treatment for nonemergency illnesses and injuries. Through virtual consultations, patients receive convenient care at home and can start feeling better much sooner.

When more extensive care is required, telemedicine provides patients with easy access to specialty care. Today, 76% of hospitals connect with patients through telehealth, and, according to the American Hospital Association, almost every state Medicaid program covers telehealth services.

Telemedicine and Healthcare Costs

The Problem: Healthcare costs are skyrocketing for a variety of reasons.

One is that patients often visit expensive facilities, such as the emergency room, unnecessarily. The average cost of treating nonemergency conditions — such as bronchitis, dizziness, sore throat and the flu — is $1,800 more in the ER than in primary care settings.   

A Better Approach: By using telemedicine, patients can get the right level of care for much less money. 

In the middle of the night, parents may find it hard to assess whether a crying child needs immediate attention from a doctor or can wait until morning. When these parents choose to visit the emergency room, they ensure the well-being of their child, but they incur high costs for themselves and their employer.

Telemedicine transforms this decision-making scenario. Instead of hurrying to an ER, patients — including worried parents with a sick child — can visit with a virtual doctor any time for quick, convenient advice and treatment. If the ER is still necessary, the virtual doctor will direct them to go there.

With virtual consultations, parents can conveniently ensure their child receives the right care, and gain peace of mind. For employers who are grappling with skyrocketing healthcare costs, 24-hour telemedicine means employees and their families can avoid unnecessary expensive visits to the ER or urgent care providers.

Telemedicine and Patient Monitoring

The Issue: New technologies now make it possible to remotely monitor the health conditions of patients suffering or recovering from a wide range of illnesses. These remote monitoring devices can collect health data such as blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart rate, alerting patients and caregivers when something might be wrong. 

An Improved Approach: Early warnings are only valuable if they lead to prompt action. Through telemedicine, healthcare providers can remotely monitor patient data to identify potential problems. They can then quickly contact patients for a virtual consultation to recommend immediate treatment. 

Notably, early intervention leads to better care and significant savings. By preventing patients from growing sicker or experiencing a catastrophic event, these early interventions improve patient health and eliminate the high treatment costs that might otherwise arise.

Telemedicine is leading to better health outcomes by improving access to care, lowering costs and providing early interventions. More employers are taking note: In 2020, 91% of employers will offer traditional telemedicine for their employees, according to the First Stop Health 2019 Health Benefits Cost Containment Employer Report. As a result, telemedicine will improve their employees’ long-term health while reducing everyone’s costs. 

Originally published Oct 31, 2019 12:30:00 PM.