From EHRs to patient portals, technology is improving the healthcare sector in a number of ways, especially when it comes to communication between patients and providers. One particularly effective platform for improving communication is telemedicine. This term is an umbrella label for the use of telecommunication technologies to facilitate patient and provider interactions. For example, when a doctor treats a patient remotely via a video conferencing application, this is known as telemedicine.
And it is growing in popularity and ubiquity. The American Telemedicine Association, for example, reported that in the U.S. there are now around 200 telemedicine networks. eVisit also reported that a small majority of U.S. hospitals - a little over half - provide the option of treatment via telemedicine for their patients.
A new study has shone further light on the popularity of this approach to healthcare: FierceHealthcare reported on a study from the Health Industry Distributors Association, which found that telemedicine is often more popular with patients than visiting a primary care provider in-person. Read on to learn more.
HIDA survey emphasizes telemedicine popularity
The Health Industry Distributors Association surveyed in excess of 1,000 patients to ascertain their views on the care they received from telemedicine visits. Fierce Healthcare IT detailed how the majority of the participants first became aware of telemedicine after a conversation with their primary care provider. Most of the participants who had received care via a telemedicine platform were younger - under the age of 50, to be precise.
Fierce Healthcare IT explained how a small majority of surveyed patients - some 54 percent - actually preferred the care they received via telemedicine platforms when compared with traditional in-person visits. Furthermore, a little over half of the survey participants rated their experiences favorably, describing themselves as "very satisfied" with their experiences.
According to their official website, the Health Industry Distributors Association was founded in 1902, and the organization works to represent medical product distributors. A registered trade association, HIDA provides a number of helpful resources for their members, helping them to remain competitive and profitable in the healthcare industry. To learn more about HIDA, visit their website.
Considering some of the major benefits of telemedicine
The findings of the HIDA survey contribute to a growing body of studies which underscore the benefits of this approach to medicine, for both physicians and patients alike. So what are some of the major upsides to embracing telemedicine? Here is a quick breakdown:
1. Increased accessibility to care
As detailed by CIS Consulting, individuals in rural and more remote areas often struggle to access comprehensive health care, typically on account of a shortage of providers located close by. For example, if patient A lives in a small farming community but needs to see a cardiologist, she may have to travel many hours, which may prove difficult for any number of reasons - perhaps she has limited mobility due to age or a health condition, or perhaps she is low-income and cannot access the funds. This is where telemedicine can prove to be an invaluable life line, as it provides a way for patients to receive the care they need, from the comfort of their own home. And with better access to care comes improved health outcomes.
Healthcare IT News included a quote from Shahid Shah, a software analyst and author of the blog Healthcare IT Guy, who elaborated on this important point.
"Some of our most important citizens live in rural, small cities, the countryside or remote areas, and these areas have smaller populations and less-direct access to vital healthcare resources," he explained. "In the past 15 years or so, we've made some great strides in remotely accessible healthcare; these offerings, called telemedical tools, provide important clinical care at a distance."
2. More cost effective
Telemedicine can work out to be a cheaper alternative, notably so for patients, U.S. News & World Report detailed. Patients save in two significant ways - on travel costs and on the visits themselves, as providers typically charge less for telemedicine consultations. Physicians can offset the lower charges of these services by fitting in more patients in a day, as telemedicine consultations tend to take less time.
3. More convenient
As pointed out by U.S. News & World Report, telemedicine is also notably more convenient for all involved. Patients no longer have to spend excessive time traveling to the healthcare facility and sitting in the waiting room, which means they can more easily fit appointments into their busy schedules. Patient B, for example, can fit her telemedicine visit into her lunchbreak at work, which would be less feasible if the appointment were in-person.