Telemedicine on the Rise

Healthcare Training Resource
June 27, 2014 — 1,452 views  
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Telemedicine on the Rise

Advances in technology have allowed the rise of telemedicine that, much like telecommuting, allows patients to be seen by a physician who is working from a remote location. So far, the uses of telemedicine are primarily seen in rural communities that already have limited access to qualified healthcare professionals. These communities seem to especially lack specialized physicians who can diagnose certain diseases, and telemedicine allows patients to receive quality care without a long drive that simply might not be feasible or affordable. The practice has a number of positive impacts on today's communities, though many warn that it's not a full replacement for a traditional, in-person consultation with a qualified physician.

Rural Communities: Better Health Through Telemedicine Consultations

Though telemedicine is used in rural communities and large cities alike, its impact is more directly felt by those in exceedingly small towns or rural areas where patients have long gone without family care clinic and even disease specialists. Telemedicine professionals meet with patients in connected consultation rooms, and they discuss many of the same topics: Symptoms, daily routines and habits, and considerations that might affect the treatment of everything from chronic back pain to a common cold. Nurses are usually on hand to measure vitals and provide them to the physician in advance, giving the physician context for a diagnosis or other recommendations.

In this way, telemedicine saves patients a significant amount of money. This is largely through two key developments. First, patients save on the cost of transportation or even hospital stays. They no longer have to drive very long distances to the nearest emergency room, clinic, or care facility. They also save indirectly on healthcare expenditures, since consultation with a telemedicine practitioner is likely to contribute to an earlier diagnosis and a better likelihood of recovery or effective management of the condition.

Facility Savings: Big Numbers for Big Hospitals

Telemedicine is also on the rise because it saves a significant amount of money for the average hospital. In fact, a single hospital alone saved more than $25 million on ICU costs by leveraging the power of telemedicine in various departments. In an era when hospitals are required by the Affordable Care act to reduce costs, trim budgets, and provide higher-quality care through higher efficiency, this is a major achievement that deserves recognition.

It's estimated that the savings from telemedicine alone could significantly reduce the cost of care per patient in large hospitals. The savings are smaller in family clinics, but still quite substantial. This allows hospitals to meet Affordable Care Act benchmarks and could even reduce both the cost of care and the cost of insurance for the average patient.

Not a Replacement for an In-Person Visit with a Doctor

While telemedicine works in many scenarios, it's not going to replace the standard doctor visit with an in-person medical professional. There are some tests, and some symptoms, which are best performed or observed on-site. Patients may therefore be referred to specialists or scheduled for a visit with a doctor even by a telemedicine doctor, and even if they're in rural areas. Even so, the significant savings and added convenience of this high-tech development outweighs such considerations. Today’s healthcare administrators and patients simply cannot ignore greater access to healthcare and dramatic overall savings.

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