Many people are surprised to learn the telemedicine has been around in some shape or form since about the time of the invention of the telephone. Physicians in one location consulted with others far away. One of the earliest uses of data transmission over the telephone was the sharing of diagnostic images. NASA even used telemedicine during the first manned space flights. Today, telemedicine has evolved to become a normal part of the way healthcare is delivered in the United States. It has a remarkably wide array of uses, some obvious and some less so. Here are 16 of the most common.
1 – Remote follow-up visits
Allowing patients to schedule a follow-up visit via video increases compliance with aftercare visit recommendations and eases the burden on patients and practices alike. As an added bonus, video follow-ups reduce last minute cancellations and no-shows, improving practice efficiency and profitability.
2 – More flexible practices
The days of nine-to-five are largely behind us, we now live in an always-on, 24×7 world where consumers have come to expect to get what they need practically on-demand. Telemedicine gives practices the option of offering extended or weekend hours without the expense of keeping the office open. It also makes practices more appealing to the growing number of patients who insist on telemedicine as an option from their primary care physician.
3 – Effective chronic disease care
It is estimated that nearly half of the population of the US, 164 million people, will be affected by chronic illness by 2025. People with chronic conditions account for 81% of hospital admissions; 91% of all prescriptions filled; and 76% of all physician visits. This presents a major challenge for the US health system. Telehealth is a cost effective and convenient way to help patients with chronic conditions manage their illness, stay engaged in their own care, and prevent problems from getting worse.
4 – Care following a hospitalization
Post-hospitalization care is essential to reducing expensive and discouraging readmissions. Studies have shown that remote visits following an admission are an effective way to keep patients out of the hospital. In fact, a program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced 30-day hospital readmissions by 73 percent and six-month readmissions by 50 percent.
5 – Hyper-specialty Care
Because video visits break down geographical barriers, patients who need to see a provider that has very specific knowledge of a particular condition can do so without the need to travel great distances. The experience and expertise of each specialist can be put to the most effective use.
6 – Team-based medicine
Sometimes healthcare is a team sport, with primary and specialty doctors working together to secure the best health outcome for the patient. Telemedicine makes this easier giving all providers the ability to consult with the patient and each other over a secure remote connection.
7 – Virtual second opinions
There are many good reasons for patients to seek a second opinion regarding a diagnosis or treatment plan. The option to do so remotely takes the hassle out of doing so and helps patients feel confident that they are getting the best possible care.
8 – Functional and alternative medicine practices
Alternative and functional medicine treatment can come with high out-of-pocket costs for patients. Video visits can help reduce some of the costs associated with commuting, missed time from work, child care, and other related expenses.
9 – Mental health services
Telemedicine is a great option for the treatment of mental health conditions. Studies have validated its effectiveness in the treatment of depression and PTSD. It removes some of the barriers that keep people from getting this important type of healthcare.
10 – Lifestyle support
Weight loss and smoking cessation are crucial to lowering the instance of heart disease, CPOD, type-2 diabetes and a long list of other problems. Telemedicine can be an important asset in connecting providers with patients to make sure they get the support they need achieve a long-term lifestyle change.
11 – More efficient use of clinical and administrative office staff
The benefits of telemedicine for providers and patients is pretty obvious, but it has big advantages for medical office teams as well. The reduced burden of patient check-in and dealing with a full waiting room allows clinical and administrative staff to focus on other, more high-value activities.
12 – Recovery after a natural disaster
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, like a severe weather event, there may be obstacles that prevent people from coming into the office for needed care. With remote visit capabilities, providers can take care of their own patients and possibly assist other impacted practices.
13 – Eldercare
Telemedicine will be an important factor in providing care to our rapidly aging population. It has already been proven to help keep people who live in assisted living facilities out of the hospital by making on-call doctors available overnight and on the weekend.
14 – School-based care
When children when children get sick at school, they might visit a school nurse or be picked up by their parents and taken to an urgent care center. This is disruptive and potentially unnecessary. Some innovative districts have teamed up with doctors to conduct video visits from the school. The provider can determine what, if any, intervention is needed and provide instructions or reassurance to parents.
These use cases represent only a small fraction of the ways that telemedicine technology can be used to extend care to patients in ways that are cost-effective and convenient. As the approach becomes more common, we’re sure that even more innovative applications will be leveraged to improve health outcomes, lower costs, and ensure that each patient gets the high-quality care they deserve.