What 6 Telemedicine Trends Say About the Future of Healthcare

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Telemedicine is becoming the technology age’s answer to better patient healthcare. Almost 90% of healthcare executives agreed telemedicine is likely to transform healthcare in the U.S. over the next decade. The growth projections for and trends in telemedicine seem to agree. In 2013, there were 350,000 patients using telemedicine. By 2018, that number is expected to increase by 20 times to 7 million patients utilizing telehealth services.

What exactly is telemedicine?

In broadest terms, telemedicine is the use of electronic communications to improve the patient-clinician experience. From two-way video conferencing to email and, of course, smart phone apps, telehealth solutions strive to make healthcare easy and convenient. It’s part of a larger shift towards value-based care. Telemedicine aims to improve the patient experience and outcome while reducing healthcare costs.

Where is telemedicine heading?

The telemedicine trends being anticipated in the coming years suggest this versatile form of health care is only going to gain greater traction. Already 67% of healthcare professionals, from physicians to therapists and life coaches, are either already telemedicine doctors or plan to incorporate it into their practice in the next two years. A few of the other telemedicine trends expected to come:

  1. Worldwide growth and application

    The global market for telehealth services care is expected to reach $27.3 billion this year. The American Telemedicine Association reported 200 U.S. academic medical centers already offer telemedicine video conferencing solutions to other parts of the world. These are mostly pilot programs at present, but telemedicine trends suggest they will show significant maturation over the coming year, taking telehealth international.
  2. More legislation supporting telemedicine in the United States

    In 2015 alone, over 200 telemedicine-related pieces of legislation were introduced in 42 U.S. states, according to a study by the Center for Connected Health Policy. Among these legislative acts are efforts to reduce the barriers for patients and physicians alike. A number of states passed bills in 2015 that would make interstate licensing easier, thus reducing one of the largest challenges faced by telemedicine providers. As many as 29 states have enacted laws for 2016 required health insurance providers cover telehealth services. With its growing popularity and low-cost solutions, we’ll no doubt see more favorable legislation and greater insurer support in the coming years.
  3. Greater employer support

    Similar to the point above, telemedicine trends point to growing support from employers. A study by 2014 Towers Watson found that 68% more employers are expected to add telemedicine to their benefits packages between 2014 and 2017. It’s estimated that telemedicine could provide U.S. companies over $6 billion each year in healthcare savings. Couple that with the other main benefits of telehealth such as remote healthcare reducing the need for lengthy PTO to visit the doctor, employer support is hardly surprising. They already offer in-office nappods and massage chairs; why not telemental health solutions, too?
  4. Growing market for telehealth devices

    Telehealth devices and services generated worldwide revenue of $440.6 million in 2013. That’s an impressive number until you compare it with the projection for 2018. The worldwide revenue from telehealth devices and services has been projected at $4.5 billion for 2018. Where there’s revenue growth, there often follows development. The telemedicine trends of 2016 and beyond will surely include new technologies and services.
  5. More patient willingness

    As many as 64% of Americans say they’d try a video visit with a doctor. Of those who have already tried it, 21% found the quality of care from telehealth services to be equal to or higher than in-person care. Another study examined the telemedical care received by 8,000 patients and determined there to be no difference between an in-person visit and one over telemedicine software.
  6. Increased popularity of telemental health solutions

    One of the greatest opportunities for telemedicine is in the mental health spectrum. Studies are already showing a greater proportion of patients keeping their telepsychiatry appointments (92%) versus face-to-face (87%). Similarly, there were far lower cancellation rates for telepsychiatry at 3.5% versus face-to-face cancellations of 4.8%. Almost three-quarters of online therapy patients booked another appointment.

Telemedicine was first introduced 40 years ago as a means to reach patients in remote areas. While it clearly can’t replace all medical services, the telemedicine trends being seen across the globe show a lot of room left to expand.

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