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It should come as no surprise that telemedicine, sometimes referred to as telehealth or eHealth, has been featured prominently in the news lately. That’s because healthcare systems and professionals are seeking safe alternatives to provide patient care in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While only a fraction of people worldwide have used telemedicine for consultations, that number is expected to rise considerably this year and beyond. At a time when many people have been advised to limit in-person appointments, telemedicine is helping to bridge the gap between patients, doctors and healthcare systems.
In this blog post we explore how telemedicine can play a vital role in effectively delivering patient care, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In England, a recent article in The Guardian reported that the NHS is encouraging doctors (general practitioners) to transition swiftly to digital consultations instead of conducting appointments face to face. According to Graham Kendall, director of the Digital Healthcare Council, “If just five percent of GP consultations in the UK went digital, there would be 300,000 fewer face to face visits to a GP a week, each of these could be a potential coronavirus transmission.’’
2020 will be a pivotal year for telemedicine
Dr. Joe Kvedar, president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) explained in a TIME magazine article how it is a pivotal moment for the sector: “Something like having to stay home could springboard telehealth tremendously, because when we get over this—and we will—people will have had that experience, and they’ll be saying, ‘Well, why can’t I do other aspects of my health care that way?'”
Although telemedicine technology has been available for some time now, uptake in the healthcare industry has lagged behind the digital transformation efforts occurring in other sectors. There are plenty of explanations for this, but present-day events have accelerated the pace of change.
A fast growing global industry
Healthcare professionals are increasingly receptive to delivering patient care in a digital way. In fact, according to a 2019 study by Global Market Insights, the global telemedicine market is projected to become a 120 billion euro industry by 2025 (up from 35 billion euros in 2018). That’s in line with a report by the European Commission, that across Europe, telemedicine is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14% in the coming years.
We have outlined below some of the reasons that telemedicine is getting a serious look from healthcare providers as a safe and effective solution for delivering patient care.
8 reasons to provide telemedicine services now
No personal protective equipment needed: while vital equipment such as face masks and other forms of protective clothing are in short supply across various countries, reducing the need for them can help maintain crucial inventory.
Safe distance is kept: when consultations are done digitally, both patient and the healthcare professional can maintain social distancing practices by avoiding close contact. This also eliminates the transmission risk for any communicable diseases.
Healthcare professionals can work during self-isolation: no one would expect someone to work while they are very ill. There are others who are asymptomatic or with minor symptoms but are currently quarantining or self-isolating. Telemedicine means that these professionals can continue to conduct patient consultations, if they choose to.
Forward triage: ill patients can be properly screened before they appear at a healthcare facility for applicable treatment. This helps to manage the flow of new patients and minimize potential contact with others, if necessary.
Reach more patients: depending on where a patient lives, it may be challenging for them to access health services in their area. With telemedicine, distance is no barrier, provided there is internet access available.
Healthcare systems are equalizing compensation for telemedicine services: countries such as the Netherlands, as well as some US states, have recently authorized telemedicine services to be invoiced at a comparable rate to in-person appointments. This means that healthcare professionals are compensated for the service they are providing, instead of how the consultation was delivered.
People are embracing telemedicine technology: in the UK more than half the population already uses the internet for the purpose of initial self-diagnosis, with over 75% using it to access health information. Meanwhile a 2018 survey of Americans found that 88% of individuals over the age of 40 are receptive to using at least one form of telemedicine. This helps dispel the myth that older generations are less inclined to use this type of technology for health care.
Maintain strict confidentiality: modern solutions are available to ensure that telemedicine e-consultations can fully comply with HIPAA and other privacy related legislation such as the GDPR. Patients and healthcare professionals can exchange information privately when using a secure communication platform such as ZIVVER.
Download our product sheet below to learn how to enhance your data security and enable the safe exchange of confidential information.