What Will the Next 12 Months Hold for Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is continuing to transform the world of health care with every passing year. Patients are able to easily connect with physicians or specialists through the use of video or online chats and can access more effective treatment plans by using technology to transfer their records and medical data. There are several changes that will take place in the next 12 months and are likely to have a positive effect on both patients and medical professionals. Here’s a look at some of the telemedicine trends that will occur over the next year.

Increase in people who use telemedicine

Telemedicine is a quickly growing field and has been making great strides for the last several decades. As more doctors, hospitals, and health care providers begin to use telehealth platforms, those numbers will only continue to grow in 2019. According to a recent report, around 7 million patients used telehealth measures in the U.S. in 2018. That’s up from 350,000 patients in 2013 – which is actually a 19,000% increase in just five years. This number is only expected to grow in the future as more people use telehealth services for various medical needs (from managing a chronic condition to consulting a physician about an injury).

More access to specialists

As telemedicine measures are used by more people, there will be increased access to physicians and specialists. Regardless of where they live, people can connect with medical professionals to help with diagnoses or treatment plans. More and more doctors using telemedicine means that the network will continue to broaden. This means that patients could even seek help from physicians internationally, ensuring that they’re always getting the best care regardless of their location. More access will lead to a wider knowledge base (especially with chronic or rare conditions) that can only benefit patient care in the future.

Divan Medical - Smartphone and Stethoscope

At the pace it’s currently moving, telemedicine is set to keep advancing quickly over the next twelve months.

Better remote services

An increasing number of health care companies are expanding their remote services in a variety of fields, including dermatology, mental health, addiction treatment, stroke care, and many others. These services, which can be conducted without patients having to make in-person visits, can be cost-saving and can increase the chances a patient will have of receiving timely care. Currently, more than half the hospitals in the U.S. offer some type of telehealth options for their patients.

Remote services also allow for shorter wait times at doctor’s office waiting rooms and emergency rooms (since patients with non-life-threatening cases can connect with a physician remotely via a video chat). In fact, according to statistics from the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America, more than 75% of doctor, urgent care, or ER visits could be handled effectively through a phone or video chat.

Increased ability to share records

As a larger number of companies are relying on technology to improve their patient care, telemedicine is helping by allowing medical professionals to more easily and efficiently share records and test results with colleagues and specialists, regardless of distance. Patients then receive better care because it’s so easy for information to be shared within a treatment team or if the patient is transferring to another physician. Improvements in telehealth technology also mean that patients have more convenient access to their own medical records and test results online.

More telemedicine coverage from insurance companies

In the last several years, more than 29 states have already required health insurance coverage for patients who were using telemedicine. In 2015, more than 25 states mandated that patients had to be reimbursed for services from telemedicine. More telehealth measures face Congress every year for even more coverage throughout the U.S. Right now, all Medicaid agencies cover at least some form of telehealth services. There’s also been an increase in employers offering telemedicine options. Since insurance companies are quickly learning that telemedicine can save them money, it will surely only be a matter of time before these options are fully covered in all 50 states, for a variety of treatment services.

Divan Medical - doctor

Patients and doctors alike will benefit from many of the upcoming developments in telemedicine.

Further acceptance

The more the public (and the government) is able to see the vast improvements in health care due to telemedicine, the more widespread the practice will be. A larger number of doctors and hospitals will rely on telemedicine to provide care, and it will be more common for people to use telemedicine options instead of visiting a physician or hospital in person. In the future, it’s likely that telemedicine will become an even more accepted and valued element of health care, becoming something that most people will depend upon when getting treatment. Patients are already all for using telemedicine – a recent study showed that more than 74% of people would be open to treatment through this method.

As a growing trend in health care, telemedicine will soon be more accepted and widely used in the future. As patients look for more accessible and convenient health care options, telemedicine is perhaps the best answer for better care and treatment.

How Smartphone Technology Is Allowing Telemedicine To Advance At A Stunning Rate

Thanks to the telecommunication and information technologies that have been at the forefront of 20th century technological advancement, telemedicine has become an incredibly effective solution to distance barriers, providing people in isolated, rural areas with access to medical services. Communications between patients and medical staff now take place with expedience and high fidelity, and this leads to faster diagnosis and resolution for patients. More recently, with the rapid technological advancement and ubiquity of smartphones (it is estimated that there are around 2.1 billion smartphone users in the world), telemedicine has managed to advance at even more rapid rates. Outlined below are some of the most mind-boggling ways smartphones have facilitated the progress of telemedicine.

Mobile Apps

There is a vast array of health apps currently available for smartphones – many of which are free. Anyone with a smartphone can use apps to monitor sleep patterns, track their weight, use two-way video calls to communicate with medical staff, get medication reminders, and even connect with online support groups.

Remote Monitoring

Some of these telemedicine apps can track and report a patient’s health information to their healthcare provider, so that detailed analysis and diagnosis can be drawn. As smartphones are always at hand, data collected this way tends to be far more accurate than both patients making estimations and medical practitioners tracking for short periods.

Remote monitoring, or self-monitoring, allows medical professionals to monitor a patient remotely using a plethora of technological devices, including smartphones. This is applicable in managing chronic diseases or conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. Remote monitoring often provides similar health outcomes to more conventional, in-person patient encounters, supplies greater satisfaction to patients, takes less time, and tends to be far more cost-effective for both the patient and the medical practitioner.

Divan Medical - X-ray on computer

Medical imaging and telemedicine have paired well together, particularly for stroke patients.

Medical Imaging – Stroke Patients

In 2012, medical images taken on smartphones to evaluate stroke patients in remote locations through telemedicine were proven to be effective. This allows patients to access expert help in a timely fashion when they need it most. If required, patients can be prescribed medications within a short timeframe to proactively minimize serious injury to the brain.

Medical images sent via smartphones have also led to significant cost reductions by making ground or air ambulance transfer of the patient to another medical center unnecessary.

Wound Management

Telemedicine for wound management is conveniently done using a smartphone’s high-quality video camera in conjunction with electronic medical records (to exchange medical information). After receiving wound images, a plan of care is developed that best ensures the patient’s full and speedy recovery. Subsequently, products that will benefit recovery are ordered and delivered. This is all done from the convenience of the patient’s home.

Wound management is particularly interesting because it provides a level of care that often cannot be done in person. Follow-ups on post-surgical visits are far more frequent and continued care for chronic wounds are much more extensive. Furthermore, it means less pain for patients, as they don’t have to travel long distances for care.


Ophthalmology is the branch of science concerned with the study and treatment of diseases and disorders of the human eye. Tele-ophthalmology attempts to digitalize as much of the ophthalmological care as possible and effective. Electronic ophthalmologic records of the patients often include the capturing of images by smartphones. Smartphone cameras are now advanced enough to be able to capture both anterior and posterior segments of the eye to be evaluated by ophthalmologists.

Divan Medical - eye

Tele-ophthalmology is another advancement that’s been made largely due to smartphone technology.

Only if patients require further evaluations will they be referred to experts in the relevant field. Tele-ophthalmology, in conjunction with smartphones, is able to treat diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy of prematurity. These are the most common causes of blindness, but smartphones are helping ophthalmologists deal more effectively with these diseases on a mass scale, helping many isolated people get the help they need before it’s too late.

A large number of studies have shown that clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction levels of tele-ophthalmology are similar to the conventional eye care system, while also providing cost-effectiveness.


The tele-dentistry industry has shown the ability to detect occlusal caries (decay on contacting surfaces of teeth) from photographs taken by smartphone cameras with comparable diagnostic results when compared to traditional screening. As tooth decay is linked to many dangerous diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia, this is an important development for many patients.

With the rapid advancement of smartphone technology, telemedicine has become an incredibly exciting space to watch, and one that provides incredible benefit to the many people who would be very poorly served in its absence. But there is clearly lots more work to be done to bridge the gap between medicine and telemedicine, and the power of smartphones will have a large part to play in bridging that gap.

News Roundup: What’s Happening In The World Of Telemedicine?

Telemedicine continues to make waves and to make the news. Many diverse groups have an interest in telemedicine, sometimes for very different reasons. For you, the consumer, the interest is obvious. How is telemedicine advancing and how is telemedicine relevant to you? Let’s take a look at some of the recent happenings in the world of telemedicine.

President Trump, while not always everyone’s favorite, seems to have come up “trumps” with his latest directive in helping to combat America’s growing opioid problem. He has effectively directed the HHS (Health & Human Services) to remove the embargo on prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine for patients with an opioid addiction. These substances include anti-addiction medicines such as naloxone. Three groups of patients will actually benefit from this important administrative change: those with addictions, children suffering from ADHD, and veterans with PTSD. These patients are all generally treated with a wide spectrum of controlled substances which, prior to this change in the law, were not able to be prescribed by telemedicine. Responding to the directive, the American Telemedicine Association’s President, Dr. Peter Yellowlees, observed: “Allowing physicians to prescribe controlled substances by telemedicine to treat patients with addictions, using medication assisted treatments, is a very positive move and one that will certainly help more patients to access high quality treatment.”

Divan Medical - X-ray on computer

Remote management of chronic conditions is set to improve with increased access to telemedicine.

The Senate also recently passed the CHRONIC (Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care) Act. Designed to improve the health outcome for Medicare patients with chronic conditions, the bill includes many provisions for Medicare to broaden its usage of telemedicine and gives Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) more discretion in the use of telemedicine. Examples of these provisions include expanding the coverage of the remote diagnosis of a suspected stroke, and extending the geographical area where kidney dialysis patients can see their physician via a video call. A new provision is the Remote Patient Monitoring, which will particularly help older citizens suffering from chronic diseases. Medicare beneficiaries with one or more chronic conditions will have the choice to opt for monitoring at home, alongside their usual regular physician or specialist check-up. Another example of advances in telemedicine – this time aiding those who find any form of travel challenging.

The number of people benefiting from Medicare is expected to grow by 50% over the next 15 years. When you add in the fact that life expectancy will also increase, there will clearly be a growing demand for the monitoring and management of chronic illnesses. The more this can be achieved remotely, the less pressure there will be on an already over-burdened system. Sabrina Smith, interim Chief Executive Officer of the ATA, observed: “This is an important step in what ATA hopes will lead to additional federal action on telemedicine. We stand with those are committed to creating an accessible, responsive, and modern healthcare system.”

Medicare was again in the news recently when the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) released some new payment rules. As of the start of 2018, CMS will support all clinicians who provide remote monitoring tools – which include smart devices and wearables that can be used in the home – and who use patient-originated health data for the purposes of care management and co-ordination. Qualifying activities include sending medication reminders, collecting, monitoring, and reviewing patient physiological data and patient education. The initiative has been praised by the Connected Health Initiative (CHI). Executive Director, Morgan Reed, commented: “These new rules are an important step forward for America’s connected health innovators, doctors, and, most importantly, patients. CHI pushed for newly enacted rules that finally level the playing field for innovators, giving doctors and patients the chance to take advantage of the best technologies available.”

Divan Medical - disabled veteran

Veterans are some of the people benefiting from advances in telemedicine.

Elsewhere in recent telemedicine news, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs passed a bill that will allow veterans to be treated via telehealth no matter where they live. It’s part of a two-pronged effort to promote telemedicine services to veterans, particularly in rural areas. In a recent survey, almost 90% of veterans currently availing of telemedicine benefits said they were happy with the service they were getting. As the number of vets using telemedicine increases, so the number of hospital admissions decreases.

Early November saw a plea raised by a coalition of healthcare providers, schools, libraries, and health centers in relation to broadband expansion. The group is requesting that the House committee boosts the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care (RHC) program, which is aimed at helping non-profit healthcare providers to access high-quality broadband connections in rural areas. They want the fund increased from $400 million annually to $800 million. Calling it a “life or death issue for rural America,” John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, stated in his letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee: “Rural communities that encounter a severe shortage of doctors, aging populations, and a greater distance to medical experts are in dire need of easily accessible telemedicine services. The RHC program has the power to elevate the health of these communities, but only if the program is revamped to promote rural broadband.”

These are just some of the important issues surrounding telemedicine that are making waves at the moment. Talking about telemedicine and keeping it in the news will benefit us all in the long-term and, ideally, in the short-term too.

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