Telemedicine is defined most simply as the remote provision of health services using a combination of information technology and telecommunication. This combination allows healthcare providers and patients to connect using digital tools for distant medical consulting, assessment, diagnosis, health-related education, and even treatment.
One of the most critical advantages of telemedicine is the positive financial incentive for both healthcare providers and patients. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has become fundamental to healthcare delivery. Furthermore, longstanding problems in the healthcare system, including high costs, poor access to care, and unequal distribution of providers, can be solved using telemedicine.
Benefits for Insurers
Hospital readmissions are costly and mostly preventable. For these reasons, governments and commercial insurers have been struggling for years to reduce the rate of readmissions, particularly for conditions such as heart failure.
Telemedicine promises to slash rates of unnecessary hospital readmissions using a combination of remote monitoring and remote visits with patients. The monitors can help determine if a patient is rapidly gaining weight (one sign of heart failure), and other convenient monitors can transmit data to a physician promptly, allowing the physician to send a visiting nurse to check on the patient and intervene if necessary to prevent another heart failure episode.
Benefits for Physicians
Telemedicine allows physicians to see patients from anywhere with lesser costs. Some physicians (e.g., radiologists) do not even need to be physically present to practice their profession. Office-based physicians can see more significant numbers of patients in a session. Telemedicine permits healthcare organizations to provide services to more patients because of the absence of constraints introduced by distance. Some physicians are even performing international consultations, although many patients pay out of pocket because there is no mechanism to cover such visits. Advances in augmented reality made possible by the 5G network mean that the era of the virtual hospital may soon be upon us.
Benefits for Patients
Patients do not have to miss work or school to see a doctor or attend follow-up visits. They can learn about laboratory results and discuss them with their physician without leaving home. Telemedicine platforms allow patients to schedule appointments and even pay for services.
According to some reports, patient satisfaction and engagement in healthcare have improved using telemedicine. It may even be the case that patients would be more likely to see a doctor if they could do so electronically. Patients also appreciate the fact that telemedicine can shorten hospital stays.
There are no losers in the telemedicine revolution; the wins just keep on coming.