Why telemedicine could be the future of health care

Physician accessibility and increasing health care costs have long been major pain points within the industry. Patients within rural areas or those that cannot easily get to a doctor are now offered more options than ever before, thanks to technology adoption. With a new health care bill working through the federal government and demand for physicians increasing, telemedicine could be the new normal in the future.

Doctor supply shortage

Physicians and health specialists are essential to ensuring our well-being, but the demand will far exceed the potential supply of these professionals. According to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, although the number of doctors is steadily increasing, growing demand will lead to a projected shortfall of between 61,700 and 94,700 medical professionals by 2025. The massive need comes from population growth, aging and the prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Telemedicine will help overcome a future doctor shortage.

A doctor deficit could be devastating to patients as well as health care professionals. Not only will physicians have to accommodate more people, but they will have less time to spend with each individual. This can lead to incorrect diagnoses and bring down the overall quality of patient care. Telemedicine offers a way for patients to connect directly with health professionals, at any time. The doctor can recommend treatments and resolve the consultation faster than in-person appointments.

"Using telemedicine, doctors can quickly assess symptoms and prescribe treatment options."

Better convenience for all

In some areas, it might take a considerable amount of time to reach a doctor or emergency room. To make matters worse, 13 percent of all office visits and 20 percent of trips to the ER require follow-up appointments, according to a Rand study. In rural regions, doctor offices are more scant and people have to travel greater distances. Many patients in rural regions and those that cannot easily get to a doctor are forced to forgo necessary treatment. Traveling long distances could be especially difficult in inclement weather conditions and if the individual needs immediate attention.

Telemedicine changes all of this by providing more convenient communication options. Rather than physically going in for a follow-up, for example, the patient can simply call or video chat with their physician. This will free up examination rooms and beds in ERs for other patients, while still ensuring that everyone gets the proper care.

Using telemedicine, doctors can quickly assess symptoms and prescribe treatment options or request an in-person visit for critical issues. Telehealth bills like the one recently approved in West Virginia are emerging to expand access to mental and behavioral medications in rural areas, while still restricting prescriptions for certain drugs like opioids, Healthcare IT News reported. Such legislation improves convenience and will be far less expensive than an in-person visit.

Technology has significantly improved communication opportunities between doctors and their patients. By leveraging telemedicine, physicians can easily reach individuals that need treatment but who may not be able to come to the office. Telemedicine is setting the stage for the future of the industry to improve quality of care and provide more options.