In 2020, telemedicine exploded onto the healthcare scene. By April 2020, telemedicine usage was 78 times higher than just two months earlier, in February of the same year. Other than the obvious change of COVID-19, what were the other reasons for the rapid increase in the usage of video conferencing tools for healthcare delivery?
The global pandemic pushed telemedicine’s popularity, although these tools have been in use in some form or another since the 1950s. A variety of regulatory rules had kept telemedicine from growing in popularity, but many of those regulations were temporarily halted during the pandemic. Since then, we’ve truly seen advantages of telemedicine, and as a result, 74% of healthcare organizations have increased their usage of these tools.
What is it about telemedicine that makes it the right technology for today’s healthcare consumer? This article will look at the question, “what are some of the benefits of telemedicine” and what we can expect from these tools in the future.
What Are the Advantages of Telemedicine?
If you’re exploring some of the benefits of telemedicine, we should first set a baseline for what this technology does – or rather, what it even means. The phrase “telemedicine” is often used interchangeably with the word “telehealth”; both refer to the practice of medicine through the use of video conferencing technology. Telemedicine allows clinical professionals to fulfill a patient encounter over a video conference, instead of a traditional in-office visit. These tools allow patients to see their doctor or therapist online, without the added hassle of traveling to an office. This convenience is probably why 83% of patients say they’d like to continue leveraging telemedicine even after the pandemic is over. Here are some of the advantages of telemedicine for patients, doctors, and health systems, that make this video conferencing solution a highly effective tool for the future of healthcare.
1. Telemedicine is convenient. Telemedicine brings the doctor to you, wherever you are. It’s a kind of virtual house call that allows you to skip the drive to a healthcare facility. If you’re sick, the last thing you want to do is bundle up, head to an office, and wait for care. During COVID, that trip could put not only yourself, but also those around you at risk of spreading illness. Instead, you can dial up a doctor on your cell phone while lying on the couch.
A recent study shows that telemedicine patients are quite satisfied with the convenience and quality of care they received:
· 87% of patients say telemedicine is more convenient than an in-person visit.
· 82% say they like that they could see their primary care provider by video conference.
· 70% said they weren’t even sure they needed to physically see the doctor; the telemedicine visit worked just fine.
· 90% were confident in the quality of care delivered via a virtual visit.
2. Telemedicine is cost-effective—and not just for the doctor, either. The rising cost of healthcare delivery is a huge problem, both for hospitals and patients. A telemedicine encounter eliminates some of the overhead costs of staffing and materials typically used during a traditional in-office visit. Research shows that healthcare providers can save anywhere from $19 to $121 per patient encounter by using telemedicine.
For patients, telemedicine visits cost around $50, compared to a baseline $85 on average for basic treatment at a medical practice, $130 for an urgent care visit, and $740 for a trip to your local ER. If a patient has an insurance deductible or no insurance at all, a portion (or all) of these costs will come directly out of their pocketbooks.
Telemedicine also saves patients the time-related costs of commuting to a doctor’s office and waiting for care. The patient won’t miss work or school, won’t need to hire a babysitter, and won’t spend the gas or bus money on a trip to a healthcare facility. This is particularly impactful if the patient must travel a long distance for care. Today, 218 counties in the United States have zero healthcare facilities and no doctors practicing in their area. Without telemedicine, anyone living in these counties must travel to the nearest doctor’s office, which could be hundreds of miles away.
3. Telemedicine increases access to specialty care. If you’ve ever had to wait to get in to see a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or cardiologist, you already know that these professionals are in high demand.
The issue is more pronounced in rural communities. On average, there are only 43 healthcare specialists available for every 100,000 rural patients. The national average wait time to see a specialist is 24 days and that number is increasing. Depending on your city, it could take a week to a month to see a doctor. This, of course, is why so many of us turn traditionally to ERs and then urgent cares to seek out the medical help we need.
As an alternative today, you can dial up a specialist on your cell phone. This benefit also extends to your primary care provider, who typically is the consulting professional that refers your care to a specialist. One study showed that primary care doctors could simply send over pictures of a patient’s physical area of concern via a secure telemedicine link and reduce the consult time with a dermatology specialist from nearly 84 days to just five hours.
Faster care means faster treatment—and that ultimately could save lives, marking this advantage of telemedicine as a significant contributor to your health.
4. Telemedicine is high-quality care and just as caring. Another benefit of telemedicine is that these visits are just as high-quality as the traditional in-office encounter. Even tricky post-surgery visits are just as effective as an in-office encounter. While removing stitches can’t be done over a video conference, telemedicine visits are effective for wound care or for answering general questions after a surgical procedure. One study showed 79% of post-surgery patients said they’d choose telemedicine over an in-person visit. Another study showed 63% of patients and 60% of doctors say telemedicine is just as effective as a traditional in-person visit.
Also, the benefits of seeing your doctor quickly can’t be discounted. One study showed patients who regularly use telemedicine have less depression, anxiety, stress, and lower hospital admissions.
Even cancer patients, whose care is difficult, time-consuming, and complex, say telemedicine visits are just as effective as in-office appointments:
· 82% of cancer patients in the study preferred telemedicine over in-office care.
· 91% said the quality of their doctor’s explanations was just as high.
· 92% said the doctor’s level of concern during their video conference was just as high as when meeting face-to-face.
MegaMeeting is proud to be a fully secure, HIPAA-compliant provider of telemedicine for medical practices, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. We have offered these tools for years and fully understand the benefits of telemedicine. Find out why healthcare providers select MegaMeeting as their top provider of telemedicine virtual video conferencing. Contact us today to see a demonstration of our service.
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