Telemedicine encompasses a broad range of technologies – from in-home electronic stethoscopes to live video consultations. Many have adopted telemedicine because it makes access to healthcare services more available and is a cost-effective alternative to traditional healthcare. It is not surprising that adoption of telemedicine services is rapidly increasing, not only for patients, but also physicians and hospitals are moving toward this innovative way to connect and do business.
According to a study based on the data of the HIMSS Analytics Database and health IT professionals, the telemedicine adoption rate has increased from 54.5% in 2014 to 57.7% in 2015. While patient and physician telemedicine adoption increase, so are the providers. Over the past year alone, telemedicine providers have increased from 68 to 85.
Telemedicine arguably may have the largest impact on rural areas. Telehealth services give patients the ability to have a video consultation with a doctor that is hundreds of miles away. This is hugely successful in regions that do not necessarily have access to larger health systems. The telehealth services being used in instances like this include: electronic monitoring system, remote access EMR, physician access hotline and live video consultation.
Brendan FitzGerald, research director at HIMSS Analytics, said telemedicine was most commonly used among respondents as a way to fill gaps in care. The study also found that the most popular form of telemedicine was video conferencing.
Video conferencing between doctors and patients is even working its way into schools. Texas passed laws to support utilizing telehealth in schools for diagnosing and treating students. The law will allow more schools to adapt the new technology. New Mexico and Georgia have also proposed legislation regarding the use of telehealth technology in schools.
While the benefits of telemedicine are clearly out weighing the risks, there is always a need to monitor the use. Doctors advise not to replace telehealth services for your annual doctor visits.