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Telemedicine – the tool more and more doctors can’t do without

June 11, 2019 · 4 min read

“Telemedicine is the future of healthcare…”, “Telemedicine is on the rise… “, “More and more doctors adopting telemedicine”…

If you are a doctor and you spend at least some time online (as you certainly do), you’ve likely seen these articles heralding the rise of telemedicine. As evidenced by statistics, some of thе predictions are already upon us. But what exactly drives them?

In our previous blog posts, we went over what tools telemedicine platforms have to offer and how to best use them. Now let’s see what is behind the ever growing adoption of telemedicine, what is fueling doctors’ interest.

The early days

“Telemedicine” may sound like a term coined only recently, but the concept has actually been around for quite some time.

As early as the 1950s, doctors were already transmitting radiologic images, and by the end of the decade, the first doctor-to-doctor live video communication was a fact. The potential was soon recognised by government institutions, and telemedicine started to slowly become popular, especially in rural and remote areas.

Over the following decades, telemedicine was gradually adopted in selected universities and medical centers, but it was primarily used for doctor-to-doctor consultations.

Telemedicine growing strong

It wasn’t until the 2010s and the advent of the Internet and the smartphone in people’s everyday lives, that telemedicine adoption started growing steadily, both among doctors and patients. A recent study in JAMA showed that telemedicine visits among commercially insured consumers surged by an annual average of 52% in the period from 2005 to 2014, and by 261% from 2015 to 2017.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a real surge in doctor adoption of telemedicine as well. According to a 2019 survey carried out by M3 among 800 US physicians, some 22% of physicians have used telemedicine to consult patients, a 340% surge from 2015 when 5% of physicians said they have ever used telemedicine.

This upward trend is projected to accelerate over the next five years, and by 2022 between 340,000 and 590,000 physicians expect to be using telemedicine.

Why more and more doctors adopt telemedicine

Naturally, there are ample reasons explaining the surge of popularity of telemedicine among doctors. We will try to outline the main benefits that doctors get by adopting and using telemedicine.

Better patient relations, better outcomes

When used appropriately, telemedicine helps doctors be better doctors.

With telemedicine, doctors can provide complete and timely care – track chronically ill patients, manage medications, and engage in patient education and preventive healthcare by providing advice on healthy living and wellbeing.

All this directly translates into better patient outcomes, which in turn leads to higher patient satisfaction, loyalty and retention – things that doctors strive for and highly value.

New patients, additional revenue streams

Going forward, telemedicine will be an indispensable tool for attracting new patients and expanding a doctor’s or a hospital’s patient base.

Furthermore, telemedicine allows doctors and hospitals to create an additional revenue stream. The option to have an online appointment attracts patients who are otherwise unable to visit the doctor.

A survey that Harris Poll conducted for American Well in 2017, showed that 20% of patients are willing to switch their current primary physician if another physician in their area offered telemedicine visits, compared to 7% in 2005.

With time, more and more younger, tech savvy people will need medical attention, which together with other factors like more favorable regulations and deepening shortage of doctors, will drive this trend further up.

Flexibility, better work-life balance

Less and less, doctors need to be confined to the brick and mortar of a practice or a hospital. In a large number of cases, care can be successfully delivered remotely, while the doctor is at home or on the move.

Naturally, within the different specialties, the portion of cases that can be meaningfully addressed via telemedicine, is different – it’s very high in dermatology or psychiatry, and lower in surgery and ENT, for instance. However, what’s important is that regardless of specialty, there are always cases in which doctors can provide meaningful help and advice to patients without the need to be physically present in the same room.

With telemedicine, doctors too can benefit from the concept of working remotely. Telemedicine allows physicians to create a more desirable and flexible work-life balance, with an increasing number of physicians choosing to practice telemedicine full time, as reported by Bloomberg in a recent article.

Staying on top of innovation

For many doctors, telemedicine is one of the next big things in medicine, the advancement that is bound to become mainstream.

More and more physicians are adopting telemedicine as they want to keep up with innovation and be ready for the healthcare of tomorrow.

There is more…

We tried to shed some light on what is driving the telemedicine momentum and why doctors are joining the trend.

However, there is another very important benefit that we haven’t touched upon – telemedicine as a powerful patient marketing tool.

In fact it’s so important, that it deserves a separate post where we explain in detail the best practices and latest approaches, along with how Healee can help you address them.

Stay tuned!