The Rapid Rise of Telemedicine
With the influence of both the pandemic and continuing advances in technology reshaping our lives, it’s no wonder physicians and healthcare organizations are increasingly embracing the online model. In fact, telemedicine has become one of the fastest growing trends in medicine.
An estimated 1.6 million televisits took place in the early months of the pandemic, between Jan. and Mar. 2020 – approximately 50% more than the previous year. By April 2020, telemedicine had accounted for a full 13% of all medical claims. That trend shows no signs of decreasing.
Once the domain of radiologists sharing scans with colleagues, digital practices are used in virtually all specialties. Many positions now are solely telemedicine – whether for physicians, nurses or other medical professions.
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The advantages are many—for both patients and providers. Patients enjoy greater and easier access to specialists, lower costs (no commutes to offices, no waiting) and, of course, there’s no risk of contracting Covid-19 when meeting online.
Telemedicine is invaluable for residents of rural areas with limited access to healthcare. In urban areas, televisits can simplify patients’ lives—especially parents who can save on the cost of childcare during trips to the doctor. Today, while you sit at your computer, you can receive a digital eye exam, consult a dentist, and upload an image to your dermatologist for use in a consult, all in a single day.
With telehealth, the elderly and home-bound more easily access care. Mental health visits are now taking place online, which is especially helpful to some after the difficult, confusing period in the early pandemic when practices were halted due to the uncertainty of a workable model for providing care.
Benefits to Physicians
On the provider side, physicians can treat more patients, while benefiting from fewer cancellations and missed appointments. For years, many doctors have sought to reduce the number of patient visits. That’s now far easier to do.
Common types of telehealth services include routine check-ups, screenings, and treatment for minor pains and aches. One survey revealed a signficant use of virtual care in the fields of gastroenterology, respiratory health, and pulmonary healthcare.
Telehealth also offers physicians greater ease in connecting with hospitals and health systems, allowing clinicians to rapidly access specialists to assist on complex cases.
The Cost of Telemedicine
Basic implementations of practice software can run from $15,000 to $150,00, depending on an organization’s size, team and features. Licenses to use telemedicine software can range from $25 to $600 per user per month. Prices rise as users, providers, and features are added.
The Telemedicine Balancing Act
Organizations will need to find the ideal balance between in-person visits and telehealth usage. However the field evolves, it’s clear that hospitals and healthcare organizations stand to benefit from having a forward-thinking telemedicine strategy in place, rather than relying on a piecemeal approach as so often occurs now.
Physicians who are not yet acquainted with telemedicine very likely will be before long. Last summer, long after the first waves of Covid-19 hit, it seemed that the pandemic was starting to wind down and in-person practices would resume at full steam. But then the variants followed, and that hope was dashed or at least delayed. Whether or not the pandemic winds down or concludes, it’s likely that telemedicine is here to stay for its many conveniences.
See open telemedicine positions here.
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