With every new technology cycle comes a fresh set of accompanying trends and vertical applications. Telemedicine and visual communications’ ability to streamline clinical services and patient care is the latest development.
avsnet’s Managing Director, Graham Fry, explored this sector in his 2015 predictions and identified it as a key area to watch. It appears Fry isn’t alone, with many of his points echoed by Skip Fleshman of Forbes in a recent article titled, “Telemedicine may just be the biggest trend in digital health in 2015.”
So Why Now?
Although telemedicine has existed for some time, it has suddenly come to the forefront of the industry due to advancements in technology, faster networks and more flexible solutions. Previously, video was a poorer substitute for an in-person appointment and as a result, many patients were extremely reluctant to adopt the new approach to consultations.
As we explained, this is changing. Higher performance networking, better public internet speeds and improved video software are driving telemedicine’s rise in popularity. As Fleshman outlines, “The technology around virtual consultations has finally matured to the point where doctors can offer a good experience.”
As a Harris Poll survey conducted by American Well in late 2014 showed, 64% of patients interviewed are open to a virtual visit with a doctor and 61% said convenience was a factor in their decision. The ability to have a short consultation at home can have a significant impact on hospital services by cutting waiting times and the associated costs.
In certain scenarios, video consultations proved particularly popular. 70% said they would prefer to receive a one-off prescription via online video and 60% said they would be happy to receive a repeat prescription with the assistance of video.
Who Will Benefit?
Of all the demographics to potentially benefit from video consultations, it is the ageing population that could gain the most from a change in approach. Dr. Steve Ommen, Associate Dean at the Center for Connected Care at Mayo Clinic, explained: “The fastest-growing demographic for social media is the 60+ group. They are not technology-averse and they have the greatest mobility challenge in terms of getting to a doctor. A telemedicine solution may be exactly what they need.”
Telemedicine not only benefits patients, but also clinical operations. As Fleshman explains: “For hospitals, expanding telemedicine is a way to cut costs while providing consumers with the convenience they crave.” Video consultations can decrease referral times, cut logistics, simplify cost management and allow doctors to do what they need to do – see more patients. It can also help alleviate the strain by reducing unnecessary A&E visits.
Not every situation in healthcare is ready for video, but telemedicine certainly has the opportunity to improve many aspects of care if it is offered the chance.