The Major Benefits of Telemedicine
The rising cost of healthcare has stirred interest in many reforms and advances to the healthcare industry aimed at curbing this steadily growing price tag. One such solution that has received a significant amount of press is telemedicine. Its purported ability to lower expenses and stretch limited resources to help expand the treatment capacity of healthcare providers are just a glimpse of the potential advantages that this evolving technology could provide.
Telemedicine is the distribution of remote patient care through ever-advancing communications technologies. This is an especially important issue in locations where access to healthcare is difficult, resources are inadequate or in cases where needed specialty expertise is unavailable – such as in isolated, rural areas.
While telephone consultations have been around for years, the communication advances we’ve made in the digital age has allowed for even greater access to providers through a variety of channels, most of which are still maturing. Examples include social media, remote patient monitoring, web portals and videoconferencing. With digital interactions like video consultations already becoming more and more commonplace, it’s a good idea to explore the benefits of this shift in medical care in greater detail to better understand the impact on both patients and providers.
It’s obvious that resources of all kinds will be harder to come by in remote, rural areas, but medical care is one shortage that can directly impact the longevity and quality of life for people residing in such areas. The ability to telecommute for routine checkups, or receive an important diagnosis without ever leaving their communities saves the resources needed to travel as well as improves the odds that problems that may have gone undiagnosed under prior circumstances are now caught early when they are still treatable.
This also allows the health facilities that these rural locations do have to leverage resources they could only dream of having in house. Services many in large cities take for granted – such as trauma, intensive care and stroke specialties – are now available to help small country hospitals care for their communities. Doctors in these specialties can also now increase their impact by working with patients that they would be physically unable to reach otherwise. This increases their influence in terms of distance as well as quantity of patients they can help.
Giving doctors the ability to reach patients no matter where they are located is beneficial to both the physician and the medical facilities that now have access to this new resource. A hospital can improve its ability to treat a broader range of aliments without having to bring on specialized staff or invest in expensive equipment or facility upgrades. Patients can also receive remote consultations and monitoring that helps them deal with their health situations at home and avoid the hospital altogether.
In addition to increasing the amount of patients a doctor can care for – decreasing per patient costs – these physicians are also able to gain a greater base of experience much quicker that can help them improve individual proficiency as well as the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.
With the resources to quickly match patients with the care they need at the disposal of a larger – and still growing – number of healthcare providers, the quality of that care is bound to increase. This means more accurate diagnoses faster, which allows treatment to begin earlier on – both key factors in improving results. And as patient outcomes get better, the need for prolonged and expensive treatment declines. It also means fewer complications that can lead to lengthy hospitalizations or readmissions, which places less stress on the hospital’s resources and helps mortality rates.
Combating the rising cost of healthcare is a high priority for many, and the ability of telemedicine to do that has barely even been explored at this point. That said, the case studies for utilizing this innovative tool are already impressive. Connecting specialists with additional health facilities both spreads a valuable resource – increasing the return on investment – and helps these providers manage diseases more efficiently, which helps curb potential complications as well as reduce hospital stays. This also helps reduce the amount of patients that need to be transferred simply to see a specialist, along with the associated costs.