There is a clear solution to helping the U.S. population become healthier. With advancements in technology, telemedicine is quickly becoming the answer for more accessible care, cheaper costs, and more effective treatments. There are countless reasons why telemedicine can help with patient care, and even more why these options could benefit the public at large by going mainstream.
Congress passed a federal budget earlier this year that allows for a major expansion of telemedicine benefits for Medicare patients (including those with chronic conditions). Hopefully, this will encourage further steps in the future that support telemedicine measures. Increased access to telemedicine options means that doctors can better treat their patients with a variety of conditions, including diabetes, obstetrics, behavioral health issues, and more. Here’s a look at the reasons why it’s crucial for telemedicine to be made even more available to U.S. citizens.
1. Better access to health care, regardless of location
Before the advent of telemedicine, patients were forced to limit their care to their local doctors. Those who lived in rural areas were often unable to receive proper care simply because of their location. However, with telemedicine options (which include remote video chats with physicians), all patients can have access to the treatment they need, without having to worry about getting themselves to a distant doctor’s office or hospital. Telemedicine can help ensure that every individual has access to health care, no matter where they’re living.
2. More access to specialists
In recent years, telemedicine options have started to allow patients to get opinions from specialists in any location (no matter how far from the patient’s residence). Treatment options are no longer relegated to whichever doctor is closest. This is an especially great benefit for people who live in remote areas or who have rare conditions that cannot be treated by local physicians. The best possible specialist to help with treatment is now always available through telemedicine communications.
3. Lowered health care costs
Telemedicine options are often cheaper for patients because doctors don’t have to charge for office fees, and patients don’t have to pay for transportation to get to an office. Additionally, aside from patient costs, telemedicine can also lower health care costs in general, which can help make health care more affordable for everyone.
4. Better care during flu season
The past several years have seen pretty serious flu outbreaks in the U.S. Telemedicine can help provide better care by allowing for ill patients to connect with physicians from their homes (through their smartphones, tablets, or computers). Some drugstores even provide kiosks that can connect patients with medical help without them having to go to a hospital. Instead of filling up emergency rooms (and risking infecting more people), patients can be treated without having to leave their homes.
5. Increased access to eye health options
Many health care companies are using telemedicine to help provide better access to eye doctors. The NewYork-Presbyterian company provides a tele-ophthalmology mobile unit that travels around some of New York City’s less served neighborhoods. Medical staff, equipped with state-of-the-art imaging devices, are able to provide screenings for eye diseases and vision issues to a variety of individuals. Patients are then able to chat in real-time with an ophthalmologist through a video screen. These types of programs can help individuals get proper eye care, which they might not otherwise have access to.
6. More tools to fight strokes
Telemedicine can also help to better diagnose and treat strokes. In order to stave off lifelong disability or death, strokes must be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. There are companies like NewYork-Presbyterian with Telestroke Initiatives that connect specialists immediately to patients through live videoconferencing. The initiative also works to have brain scans taken from the ambulances, which are then delivered digitally to the specialists at the hospital. This helps to get the patient started on the right protocol immediately, which could be extremely valuable to a stroke patient. If other companies instituted initiatives like this one, many more patients could benefit.
7. Spend less time waiting
Instead of spending tons of time in a doctor’s office waiting room or the lobby of a hospital, telemedicine options allow patients to set up appointments directly with a physician (which means no waiting time). Some programs are setting up options within hospitals’ emergency departments, where patients can consult with a doctor through a video chat – this can result in a decrease in waiting from two to three hours to 35 to 40 minutes.
8. Less crowded ERs
With more people using telemedicine options, emergency rooms will be less crowded (and your wait time at an ER will be much shorter). People who would normally head to the ER can instead consult a physician from their home. This means that people who come to the hospital with life-threatening or very serious injuries or illnesses won’t have to wait as long and can get treated much more quickly.
All of these reasons lead to the conclusion that telemedicine not only benefits the individual patient, but also the country’s health care as a whole. Although there will still always be a need for in-person doctor’s visits, telemedicine options can help revolutionize and improve our health care system.