The history of medicine is full of innovative ideas that were developed to meet new challenges. As societies became increasingly centered in high-density areas, for example, scientists developed new approaches to sanitation to help slow the spread of disease. A new method of manufacturing antibiotics was developed to make them more available to soldiers during the second world war. Advances in contraception became available as a response to changes in the lifestyles of modern women.
The healthcare community has always been good at reacting to changing conditions and finding solutions to the problems of the day. So it is not at all surprising that a technology that’s been around for quite a while, telemedicine, is being used in new ways to meet the healthcare complexities that we face today.
By 2050, the population aged 65 and over in the United States is expected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. People are living so much longer that demographic projections now assume that every other person born since the beginning of the 21st century in the US and other countries such as Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Canada, and Japan will live to 100 years.
The challenge, of course, is that older people tend to have more, and more complex medical conditions. Providing effective care at a reasonable cost will be essential for decades to come. Telemedicine solutions that allow providers and patients to handle routine care and chronic illness management without in-person visits, will help keep costs down and make health maintenance easier for patients.
The Affordable Care Act
The Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that about 16.4 million uninsured people have gained health care coverage since the Affordable Care Act when into effect. Unfortunately, there was no offsetting increase in the number of providers available to serve these patients. Increased efficiency and wise use of every provider’s time is more important now than it has ever been.
Telemedicine solutions can help because they reduce the amount of time it takes to see each patient. They also lower the administrative burden and allow providers to serve patients from a larger geographic area.
Increase in Chronic Conditions
Chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis affect an estimated 117 million people. People with chronic conditions account for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits. It is estimated that by 2025, chronic diseases will affect 164 million Americans, nearly half of the population.
Telemedicine is ideally suited to the treatment of chronic conditions. Medication management, counseling, and treatment plan management can all be handled through remote video visits. When obstacles like time away from work, travel cost and expense, and long wait times are removed, patients are able to be more compliant and more engaged in management of their conditions.
There is no doubt that the American healthcare system faces some pretty big changes and challenges. Technology isn’t the only solution, but as it has so many times before, it can help. Telemedicine solutions are a promising approach to ensuring high-quality healthcare despite the changing landscape.