As the healthcare industry embraces various technology trends and transforms rapidly, providers, doctors, and patients get to enjoy a wide range of new benefits. One of the most promising innovations in this area is telemedicine. By delivering medical services remotely, telemedicine is expected to play an important role in the evolution of healthcare systems during the upcoming years.
It’s not only technologically disruptive, but it also promises to solve challenges such as the aging of the population, the need to manage large amounts of information, and the growing demand for healthcare services.
The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has only strengthened the role of telemedicine as a primary method of accessing healthcare services.
Read this article to learn what the future holds for telemedicine in 9 predictions.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine uses the internet to connect healthcare providers to patients. It sometimes comes under terms such as m-health, e-health, or telehealth – but it’s about one and the same thing: establishing a connection and enabling interaction between patients and caregivers via a digital medium.
Telemedicine has a long history, which dates back to the times when digital and video images were transmitted between radiologists and their patients in the 1980s (you can read more on the subject in RingCentral’s Definitve Guide to Telemedicine). However, the widespread access to broadband internet enabled healthcare providers to offer a brand-new service of online video consultations.
Why is telemedicine growing so much?
Basically, because it helps to handle all the different challenges healthcare systems experience in both external and internal care delivery. Some of these challenges are:
- declining health outcomes,
- rising care delivery costs,
- the influx of patients who live longer with chronic diseases,
- an increase in competition.
By using telemedicine solutions, healthcare providers can increase access to care and deliver video consultations to patients in underserved areas, chronically sick patients who need daily monitoring, and remote patients who find traveling problematic.
Another problem telemedicine can solve is reducing no-shows. Patients are less likely to skip routine preventive treatment when they don’t need to travel for receiving care. Telemedicine will also reduce the number of readmissions, ER visits, and patient transfers, ultimately reducing the medical practice physical overhead to lower healthcare costs.
So, what’s the future of telemedicine? How will it transform healthcare as we know it? Will more people consult their doctors via telemedicine applications rather than rely on traditional on-site clinical visits?
9 predictions about the future of telemedicine and e-health
More advanced technologies for healthcare applications
Telemedicine offers patients and doctors the possibility to interact without having to travel to a healthcare facility. However, it’s always good to look for new opportunities for increasing patient engagement. Since an increasing number of consumers are now using mobile applications, in the future, we’re going to see telemedicine turn to the mobile scene as well.
Healthcare providers are going to invest in more innovative mobile applications that will streamline communication between patients and caregivers. Such apps will gather all the key patient information to enable personalized services and display it on comprehensive healthcare dashboards.
Decentralization of the healthcare system due to telemedicine solutions
Healthcare professionals tend to migrate from large hospital complexes and often end up opening smaller community-based practices. This trend is particularly significant in massive hospitals that tend to offer their more specialized services in their centralized locations.
We can expect that the younger healthcare professionals will benefit from the flexibility telemedicine offers and push for the decentralization of services. They might open the doors of their own telemedicine practices or influence their employers – massive hospitals – to invest in such facilities. This will, in turn, give rise to a decentralized healthcare system with telemedicine at its core.
Smaller practices partnering with telemedicine giants
Running a small business is always tricky – and the same is true for smaller medical practices. As business costs rise and regulations become stricter, small businesses struggle to keep their doors open and expand to new locations.
Many of them are going to turn to telemedicine companies to provide them with a solution. In the future, we’re going to see smaller practices partner with larger telemedicine businesses. Such alliances will enable such providers to offer specialized services using the advanced telemedicine infrastructure and software of their partners, expanding the telemedicine market.
More investment in cybersecurity
Since telemedicine relies on innovative technologies, cybersecurity is a key issue in its future development. The healthcare industry has experienced cyber-attacks before, and as telemedicine becomes more popular, data protection is going to become a top priority for healthcare providers.
That’s why we’re likely to see significant changes in how the telemedicine sector protects confidential information. Many telemedicine companies are going to invest more in developing cybersecurity measures to prevent database breaches and other forms of hacking. Some such tools are going to rely on artificial intelligence algorithms able to pick up any suspicious activity in real time. Such tools will enable system administrators not only to react to incidents but proactively prevent them.
Data breaches result in massive costs, so investing in cybersecurity is a smart move for healthcare providers.
Increasing popularity of out-of-the-box health software
Until today, hospitals and telemedicine companies used proprietary software and hardware to offer their services to patients, at least for the most part. However, this may soon change with the arrival of widely distributed and user-friendly software.
Out-of-the-box solutions might prove to be much more affordable than the costs of creating, implementing, and maintaining proprietary systems. Such third-party platforms will offer increased security and user-friendly interfaces to make telemedicine more available.
Greater insurance coverage for remote health services
As telemedicine becomes more widely used, government-administered healthcare programs and insurance companies are going to be more willing to cover such care. Insurance coverage for telehealth services and remote patient monitoring is going to be of interest to governments looking to reduce the costs of healthcare and ensure that their populations receive care even in situations such as a global pandemic.
More Artificial Intelligence (AI) based software
AI is on its way to changing many different sectors, and medicine is no exception. An increasing number of healthcare providers will be implementing AI-based software for a wide range of purposes, from determining skin cancer from skin images to detecting pulmonary nodules and chest x-rays.
Such software can also be used in direct contact by gathering information and using logic to determine what the next best set of questions could be to ask the patients. This is how AI-powered chatbots work in healthcare.
But such applications will be more than symptom checkers. They will ask a series of questions and then use the information to determine the next best step, from referring the patient to a specialist to ordering a specialized examination like a biopsy.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
One of the most significant healthcare trends during recent years are the initiatives to reduce hospitalizations and to better control chronic diseases among local populations. However, until telemedicine became popular, doctors had no way of controlling their patients’ home life.
In the future, more physicians will be using remote patient monitoring systems to monitor patients at home after surgery to ensure a swift recovery. Monitoring patients who have chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder will help providers to comply with care plans and, at the same time, keep patients out of hospitals to reduce the costs of care.
Emergency responders play an essential part in healthcare systems because they’re on the front lines of saving lives. Hospitals are going to use telemedicine solutions to connect paramedics with intensivists, cardiologists, and neurologists to deliver care faster.
When medical events such as a heart attack or stroke occur, immediate intervention can make a huge difference – between life and death, or a partial and full recovery. Telemedicine solutions are going to play a role in accelerating the delivery of proper care.
Paramedics will use such solutions to connect with top specialists even before patients are loaded into an ambulance. Moreover, paramedics will gain an opportunity to understand whether a lower acuity destination might be more appropriate for the patient’s needs. That way, the use of paratelemedicine will lead to cost reductions and help teams avoid unnecessary transportation.
In the future, the healthcare industry is going to face different challenges than it does today. As it absorbs new technologies and solutions, we can expect telemedicine to become one of the most important features transforming healthcare systems during the next few years.
The current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has forced many healthcare providers to expand their digital offerings. They’re more likely to realize the potential of such technologies for delivering care to patients faster and at a lower cost. In the future, telemedicine is going to build stronger patient outcomes and completely transform healthcare systems.
Would you like to learn more about how the healthcare industry is using technology? Be sure to browse our blog, where our experts share their insights about technological innovation in the medical sector. And if you’d like to boost your healthcare business with trending tech solutions, contact us to find out how we can help you with your next healthtech project.
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