Technology has had a massive impact on many elements of society, helping provide solutions to make thousands of processes more efficient.
The healthcare industry in the United States has been transformed by tech during the 21st century, and the trend will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.
Telemedicine has helped to enable a new standard of care, keeping patients better connected with their healthcare providers.
It has also helped improve access to clinicians and specialists, allowing patients and providers to interact effectively in a digital environment.
Read on as we look at some of the main benefits of telemedicine and assess some of the developments that will shape the sector in the future.
The Benefits of Telemedicine
One of the critical elements of telemedicine is its ability to increase access to healthcare, making it easier for successful patient outcomes.
For patients who live in remote areas or cannot travel to their provider, telemedicine boosts their chances of receiving the care and treatment they need.
Chronically ill patients can also receive improved support at home, with healthcare professionals able to monitor their progress on a daily basis.
Telemedicine also reduces the strain on land-based services, particularly with regards to reducing the number of appointments that are missed.
With improved mortality, reduced complications, fewer hospital stays and lower healthcare costs, telemedicine is truly a force for good.
The Recent History of Telemedicine
Telemedicine has existed for more than 50 years, but it is only over the past few years that it has started to gather significant momentum.
Around three-quarters of healthcare providers offered their patients some form of virtual medical services in 2017, and the figure has risen since then.
Patients have become increasingly comfortable with this mode of operation, helping to power the growth in prevalence of telemedicine.
Healthcare providers and professionals have also become more adept in effectively implementing telemedicine to improve their services.
With analysts predicting that the industry could be worth around $13 billion by 2023, it is clear that telemedicine is here to stay.
Security & Privacy in Telemedicine
Cyber security and digital privacy are the main challenges to telemedicine, and providers must ensure that that have all the bases covered in these areas.
Regulations in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) demand that the sharing of personal health information (PHI) is conducted in a secure environment.
Healthcare organisations are often a massive target for cybercriminals because their networks contain so much valuable personal data.
The threats can be negated by the implementation of robust network security features and controlled access rights management.
Other data protection tech such as encryption also plays an integral role in ensuring that healthcare providers are compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Telemedicine in Action
The rollout of 5G internet connectivity means that more devices and equipment can be connected to the cloud or a server to support the delivery of telemedicine.
Patients can use wearables to check elements such as heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, and transmit the data to be analysed by their healthcare provider.
This enhanced level of monitoring improves the management of health conditions and can reduce the need for patients to make visits to land-based healthcare services.
Mobile apps also contribute to the telemedicine landscape, providing users with solutions for healthcare issues which are not an emergency.
They help to facilitate the delivery of telemedicine, further easing the burden on the healthcare system in general.
Providing Better Outcomes
Another area where telemedicine has been extremely useful is in opening up healthcare in non-traditional settings across the US.
There has been a growth in the number of self-service kiosks in public places and pharmacies, offering patients another route to healthcare provision.
Telemedicine devices allow for the transmission of readings of vital signs while the patient is travelling, speeding up the care they eventually receive.
This is particularly pertinent for situations such as stroke or heart attack, with providers able to respond more effectively to those emergencies.
Telemedicine can be a lifesaver for those issues, again providing patients with better outcomes than was previously the case.
Artificial Intelligence in Telemedicine
Artificial intelligence (AI) has already made an impact in telemedicine and it is anticipated that it will bring new capabilities in the sector over the next few years.
For instance, AI has the capacity to enhance a patient’s experience of telemedicine by dynamically adjusting questions asked by chatbots to the responses that are given.
AI also has the power to help with diagnostics, recommend medical checks based on data monitoring and provide reminders for medication.
When used effectively, AI tech can advance the health of individuals, helping to create stronger communities and populations.
As with other elements of telemedicine, this is achieved by supporting better health outcomes and improving the efficiency of healthcare providers.
Robotics in Telemedicine
Using robots in healthcare may seem overly futuristic, but it is anticipated that they will become commonplace over the next few years.
For instance, robots can be used to follow doctors as they make their rounds, sharing live footage with remote specialists who can contribute their expertise.
Telehealth robots can also visit patients in examination rooms or hospital beds, allowing healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat from remote locations.
They can also support healthcare provision in rural areas, allowing providers in those regions to offer a greater level of care.
Robots also have the capability to assist with operations, providing greater accuracy for the surgeon and improved potential patient outcomes.
Telemedicine in the Future
Telemedicine has already made significant inroads in the healthcare industry, and it will continue to do so in the future.
Patients have benefited massively from the convenience it provides, while the benefits from a provision perspective are clear for everyone to see.
As telemedicine progresses, advancements in AI tech will allow for increased use of data to further improve the healthcare industry.
This will include making earlier diagnoses, information transfer and response times to emergency situations across the US.
Continued implementation of telemedicine can only be viewed as a positive, providing a platform to boost the life expectancy of millions of citizens.