In the old days – and still in some parts of the world – it was commonplace to call upon a doctor to visit the home of a patient to diagnose illnesses. Now, as the physician shortage continues to grow, alternative ways of checking in with a doctor for minor illnesses and conditions rise in popularity.
One of these alternative doctor’s visits includes telemedicine, the ability to diagnose and treat patients remotely through means of telecommunication technology.
How telemedicine is a short-term solution to the physician shortage
As the population continues to expand and age, the shortage of physicians is worsening nationwide as the number of new physicians fails to keep pace with the nation’s growing healthcare demands. Although doctors will be spread thin across clinics and hospitals to accommodate the growing population and their healthcare needs, telemedicine seems to be one emerging solution to increase reach. By using technology to handle minor, acute illnesses and at times, critical situations in psychiatry, providers can increase their reach.
In some of the largest cities in the nation, the average wait time for a doctor’s appointment is 24 days. Telemedicine is envisioned as the short-term solution to eliminate the long waits. Additionally, major insurance companies are backing the solution and technology as way to improve efficiency and reduce health care costs.
Telemedicine’s role in rural communities
Along with serving as a short-term solution to bridge the gap in the physician shortage, telemedicine is also becoming the solution to serving those in rural communities. With reduced populations, a large number of elderly patients and a higher percentage of uninsured patients, more and more rural hospitals continue the last decade’s trend of closing completely. This leaves a large percentage of the population without easy access to healthcare and the remaining hospitals to attempt to accommodate them.
Additionally, staffing issues with rural hospitals persist as some hospitals cannot afford to have specialty doctors on staff full-time and there exists a shorter list of physicians willing to work permanently in remote areas. Even when there are physicians available, the challenge of getting patients into rural hospitals within a timely manner persists because they’re plagued by the travel distance from a community to the nearest operating hospital.
For these reasons and more, telemedicine presents a solution for patients, providers and hospitals within rural communities. Instead of traveling and waiting for an appointment or waiting days, even weeks, for a healthcare professional to travel into a remote area, telemedicine enables remote consultations that are faster, less expensive and more efficient than traditional healthcare appointments.
Regarding specialists, rural hospitals can outsource diagnostic analysis and gain access to remote specialists to assist with greater healthcare needs. For rural hospitals with difficulty keeping specialists on staff, they can work in conjunction with remote analysis labs to bridge the gap.
Telemedicine is Revolutionizing the Healthcare Industry
Telemedicine is not just becoming the solution to serving rural communities and assisting the physician shortage. Using telemedicine also allows for better long-term care management and patient satisfaction. It also offers a new way to locate health information and communicate with practitioners, ultimately increasing the convenience for the patient.
With the continuous advancement in technology, the use of telemedicine has the capacity to revolutionize the delivery of healthcare by improving quality and increasing accessibility and efficiency in diagnosis and treatment. With this increased ability to provide a more efficient and connected level of care, providers and patients can work together to achieve goals and provide care more than ever before.
With the ease of use, convenience and the ability to serve multiple populations, telemedicine certainly holds a bright future in medicine and healthcare. It can be expected that telemedicine will become a major avenue to gaining healthcare treatment and access in the future.