Health care has always remained pretty much the same. The basic process of visiting a doctor about concerning ailments goes back centuries, with doctors prescribing medicines and treatment plans they believe will aid in the cure of the disease. Of course, the medicine that medical professionals prescribe has changed significantly over the years, and continues to advance as research and resources expand. But the actual mechanism of health care has largely remained unchanged for many decades. It’s only with the explosion of the internet and digital technologies that health care is seeing a major shift, and as it currently stands, it’s at a tipping point. This new integration of health care and technology is known as telemedicine, and it’s set to totally overhaul the U.S. health system as we know it.
Telemedicine is not a new idea. It began in the sixties as a way of connecting doctors with their patients via telecommunications only. It was an outlier procedure that was useful to a small section of the medical community, but remained largely obscure for many decades. Recently, however, with the explosion of the internet and digital communication in general, telemedicine has reentered the health care sphere, and is currently making a huge impact. Let’s look at four major ways that telemedicine is disrupting the health care industry, and setting up an interactive, consumer-driven future for medicine in general.
1. Pushing a Consumer-Based Model
Consumers have already proven they are eager to accept digital technology in many forms, without caring which traditional practices fall sacrifice to it. One prime example of this is Netflix; this multi-million dollar juggernaut has almost completely dispensed with terrestrial television, as people move to a more practical on-demand service. The same is starting to be true of health care, too. Even though most patients wouldn’t consider health care to be a consumer-based service, as anytime you go to a doctor or hospital you’re acting out of necessity, in actual fact, that is what it is. Telemedicine allows patients more options, which essentially hands back the control to the patients, i.e. the consumers. This means that health care can become more focused on the needs of the patients, and even competitive in some branches, which in the long run is a great boon to people availing of it. Everybody knows how much health care costs, with bills sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of dollars; a consumer-based model would be beneficial to the entire sector.
2. Better Access to Specialists
Part of making the health care sector more accessible for patients means broadening the reach of specialists. Usually, family doctors and physicians are unable to help patients with specific diseases and disorders that require a more informed diagnosis. In these cases, which make up the majority of visits to regular doctors, the patient is referred to a specialist, who can then treat their condition with expertise in that particular field. For many decades, patients were assigned to the nearest specialist to them physically, which made sense for both patient and doctor. With the advent of telemedicine, patients are no longer limited to consigning themselves to one specialist, and can instead consult online with the one that suits them best. This is a huge turning point for the health care sector, and its impact on the industry cannot be overstated.
3. Health Care on Demand
Previously, a trip to the doctor could take huge chunks out of a patient’s day or week. Now, with the introduction of telemedicine, the patient can experience health care on demand, on their own terms. This also makes it much easier for patients to schedule in appointments, and saves health care professionals a little bit of admin work on the side. Another benefit is on-demand health care being extremely useful in an emergency. Of course, it’s no substitute for the emergency room, but if unexplained symptoms flare up unexpectedly, you don’t have to wait until the next day to check the symptoms and ease your mind. Sites like MMJ Recs and Moosh also provide patients with specialized prescriptions over the internet, saving time and money.
4. Patients can Aid Doctors with Diagnoses
Through telemedicine, patients are able to communicate with their health care professionals via data, allowing doctors to get a broader view of their patients’ symptoms, and ideally leading health care professionals to a better idea of what they might be dealing with. Unfortunately, it is rare that symptoms will flare up during the fifteen minutes you’re in the doctor’s office, especially if they are on-and-off, or if they occurred some time before you managed to speak to your doctor about them. Telemedicine allows doctors to gather data over a certain period for bodily functions like blood pressure, heartbeat, and other elements that can be remotely monitored. As both health care and telemedicine progress, expect this particular benefit to increase substantially. It’s cheaper, too; several studies have shown that telemedicine saves money for both patients and doctors alike, making it a more economically sound option in what is generally regarded as a potentially expensive business.