It’s no secret that consumer use of mobile devices has been steadily trending upward. The patients walking through your door have probably already spent a good portion of that day shopping online, having food delivered, hailing a cab, working, going to school or even searching for their next date. It’s likely that they might even be among the 70% of Americans that sleep with their phones!
Consumer behavior shows just how crucial digital devices are to daily life. And, with that, more and more patients are adding another task to their digital lifestyle: Consulting a doctor.
But, the introduction of virtual house calls is not as new as your patients might think. Believe it or not, telemedicine has been around in one form or another since the 1950s as an early effort to reach people living in remote places. Only recently has it become a mainstream option for patients living even just a few minutes drive from a provider’s office. Today a much broader population pool is seeking to reach out to providers online with their health insurance in hand and basic complaints, like a plain ol’ sore throat, on their mind. And medical providers are responding.
Telemedicine allows primary-care physicians, specialists, psychiatrists and others to provide professional healthcare services via telecommunications technology. Simply put, healthcare providers are hooking into videoconference, telephone, and other high-speed internet systems and finding that the possible uses are endless, from diagnosing ear infections to monitoring high blood pressure.
Here are five key reasons healthcare providers are incorporating telemedicine into their practice.
Telemedicine can be the difference between a person receiving some level care instead of no care at all — especially people dealing with chronic conditions that require a lot of follow-up. Distance is a factor that typically leads people to neglect lengthy or frequent follow-up appointments.
Also, Telemedicine allows you to give your own patients greater access to specialists not in your area and healthcare professionals they might not normally get to ask questions of, like the tech reading their X-ray.
For your post operative patients, the ability to connect online with a video conferencing tool could be a benefit at times when it is too difficult for the patient to travel back and forth after surgery. The surgeon and aftercare team can still check any wounds or symptoms and go over post-op instructions, without the patient leaving their own bed. It frees up beds at your busy hospital and reduces a patient’s stress, letting them heal up in the comfort of their own pajamas.
Fewer chances to get sick(er)
You know that basket of face masks you keep at the entrance of your waiting room? They’re there for a reason — for example, to help minimize your patient’s risk of contracting the flu, which goes up when they visit a public waiting room.
With telemedicine, patients can keep their cough to themselves. You let them skip sitting next to all those other folks harboring who-knows-what-kind of germs that could compromise a weakened immune system even further. Think of telemedicine as another tool in your patient’s preventative care toolbox.
The doctor-patient relationship
Telemedicine makes it possible for shorter but more frequent face-to-face interaction, leading you get to know your patient better—and their comfort level with you to grow. A relationship where the patient is comfortable sharing all his or her concerns openly and where the doctor knows the patient’s history, baseline, and problems thoroughly, means better communication and better care.
Here’s the important bit: While it would be easy to assume more physical distance would mean less accuracy in diagnosis and treatment, quality of care actually increases with telemedicine, thanks in part to shorter hospital stays and fewer people being admitted in the first place. That in turn results in cost savings.
Less expensive care
Telemedicine drives down costs for patients—as much as 19%—while also saving doctors money. And with more health insurance companies covering telemedicine, providers are finding it more feasible to offer a service more people might really benefit from having.
Growing interest Telemedicine acknowledges what the average 13-year-old already knows to be true: that magical glowing rectangle kept at the bedside is meant to make life easier and more connected.
What better person to stay connected with than the one keeping an eye on one’s health? Especially now that your office can be just video chat away.