Telemedicine has been around for quite a long time. Ever since the invention of telephones and radio, telemedicine has worked to bridge the gap between patients and health care workers despite physical boundaries. In fact, telemedicine may have even existed earlier than that.
Regardless of when telemedicine began, it cannot be denied that current advances in communication and technology have also evolved healthcare by leaps and bounds. It would seem that there would regularly be new technologies that are being introduced, with different purposes and benefits.
Here, we would discuss how further advancements in telemedicine will affect the future of healthcare. You can expect to see these shifts and changes are telemedicine becomes more accessible and technology becomes much more advanced.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, although there is a difference between the two if you want to be strict about it. Telehealth encompasses a much broader aspect of healthcare, while telemedicine focuses more on consultations, diagnosis, maintenance, and treatment.
Current advances in technology and communications have greatly benefited both doctors and patients alike. Hospitals and clinics have also taken advantage of this new business model by using new tools that help in improving their services and operations.
It has been said that around 50% of all hospitals in the United States use some form of telemedicine. As more people from the healthcare industry become more receptive of these types of technology, and as more patients become more aware of this type of access, you can expect these numbers to rise significantly over the years.
What Changes in the Industry Can We Expect?
As technology in terms of hardware, software, communications, and connectivity improve, so too with the impact of telemedicine have in the healthcare industry. Future changes would include improvements on current advantages, while others will naturally be born out of the benefits that telemedicine can provide.
Here are just some of our predictions on how telemedicine of the future will affect healthcare.
More Investment in Technology, Not People
As telehealth evolves, so will the tools and equipment that are being used. Currently, videoconferencing tools are being used for doctor to patient consultations, but these are utilize simple mechanics that almost anyone can use. However, we expect more sophisticated technology to also make more frequent appearances.
We will also see a rise in investments of hospitals and clinics on state of the art machineries that utilized Artificial Intelligence, high bandwidth Internet connections, cloud storage, and powerful computers. Hiring of actual health workers and specialists, will decline slightly but will not be eliminated altogether.
Rather, hospitals will be looking for specialists and manpower that are more tech-savvy. This is because scanning equipment and other pieces of hardware will become much more advanced. Rather than having a radiologist examine X-rays, a machine can do that at a fraction of the time, with much better accuracy.
Of course, a combination of hardware, software, and AI will require training in order to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to utilize and, in some cases, troubleshoot these machinery. We foresee that, not only will these skills be factors that hiring departments will be looking for, but IT will also be a relevant part of the medical curriculum in the future.
That is not to say, however, that doctors or nurses will be replaced in the future. That is far from the truth. Rather, we will see an evolution in the medical profession, with doctors not only learning how the body works, but also the technicalities of utilizing and taking advantage of AI and machines to make their jobs easier.
Medical Expenses will Keep Going Down
Currently, averages state that those who use telemedicine for their medical concerns save 100 US dollars per visit when compared to seeking healthcare through traditional means. This is due to medical establishments being able to pass on their savings to the patients.
Lowered operational costs will be due to decreased overhead. Less manpower and faster turnaround times will result in a lower payroll. In some cases, actual physical spaces will also be reduced as the need for large office spaces will eventually be eliminated.
For patients, they can expect larger savings as travel costs will no longer be required. This is especially important for those who require frequent monitoring as this can be done online. Those who need to accompany patients who have trouble moving around will likewise no longer need to get off work just to take their loved one to the hospital.
More People Get Better Healthcare Quality
As telemedicine becomes more widespread and accessible, and with healthcare costs going down, more and more people will be able to afford quality health care. As the time that it takes to see, diagnose, and treat patients go down, specialist will also have more time to take on patients.
As a result, patients with conditions of varying levels of severity will not only be able to get treated pretty much on demand, but since physical location will no longer play a part, they will also be able to get the best medical practitioners to handle their case even if said specialist is halfway around the world.
Higher Cases of Chronic Conditions will Appear
Unfortunately, we will also predict a rise in chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and different types of cancers. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as this will simply be a result of people living old enough to get these age-related diseases.
As people live longer, the higher their risk of getting chronic conditions such as arthritis and the diseases mentioned above. While younger people who are more tech-savvy will be the major bulk of those who use telemedicine, the number of elderly with these conditions who will also use this medium of healthcare will also rise significantly over the years.
More Reliance on Trackers and Apps
The advances in telemedicine will result in the widespread use of remote health trackers such as blood sugar or heart rate monitors that provide real time telemetry. Phone apps will also be used to measure number of steps, sleep quality, and other information that can be used to determine health and monitor lifestyle habits.
We will also see established companies, as well as numerous startups, try to carve a niche in this industry, as remote health trackers and health-related apps will definitely complement the direction that telemedicine is currently moving towards.