Telemedicine – no more doctor’s visit?
Healthcare services can now be delivered outside traditional healthcare facilities, such as clinics and hospitals, by using the rapidly growing telecommunications, virtual technologies, and better ICT infrastructure. Such practices are known as telemedicine. Instead of going to see a doctor or even searching for symptoms on Google, we can now easily contact our healthcare providers to consult about various health issues.
In our world today, COVID-19 has made a regular doctor’s visit risky or even impossible. This situation has forced patients who need physicians for other conditions and treatments to switch to internet-based consultations.
Before COVID-19, telemedicine was not an uncommon practice. As patients, sometimes we contacted our physicians through emails, used online platforms to schedule appointments, and even made requests for prescriptions. In this time of social distancing and online meetings, it is not surprising that telemedicine is on the rise.
General usage for telemedicine is in the areas of primary care, telemonitoring, and prevention, along with teleconsultation. And the most common diseases monitored using telemedicine are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary, and overweight diseases.
It seems that there is no way back from telemedicine. Telemedicine provides us with convenience. It has no location boundaries, with lower expenses for high-quality healthcare services, and it is more time-efficient. We don’t have to wait in queues – thus avoiding the risk of an increased rate of infections – no unneeded doctor’s visits, and we have access to a 24/7 service. Also, patients with chronic diseases can be monitored remotely without the hassle of visiting a doctor.
There is a steady demand, potential, and commitment to invest in this area in the next five years. The invention of mobile health applications, internet-connected medical devices, and software drives the increasing trend of telemedicine. Companies like Philips Healthcare, Beam Healthcare, GE Healthcare, and many others are investing more in producing a wide range of services and software in self-care and self-monitoring. Various start-ups are also expanding to telemedicine – by providing tailored solutions and easy access to healthcare.
Additionally, governments are investing more into the research of the benefits of telemedicine for people. Governments from different countries are coming together to establish international standards and regulations that cover global telemedicine solutions.
Telemedicine for your furry housemate
Not only for us humans, but telemedicine services are now increasingly available for our furry housemates. Veterinary telemedicine is a niche in the market. However, COVID-19 has given it a boost – from a “nice to have” to a “necessary” service. In the US, where pets and their owners have not been allowed to be in the veterinary facility since the pandemic started, veterinary telemedicine is highly appreciated. With telemedicine, vets can interview the pet owners to examine the problems and decide the diagnosis.
But… we are not there yet
The adoption of telemedicine is still at an early stage. Even though telemedicine is on the rise, we sometimes still prefer physical consultations with medical practitioners. The doctor-patient relationship is, after all, a very emotional factor in healthcare service. Some healthcare providers have been the patients’ family doctor for decades. Going to the hospital or general practitioner gives the feeling that proper medical examination, treatment, and diagnosis are provided. Besides, physical examinations are still often needed to determine the diagnosis. After all, primary care is deeply rooted in face-to-face interaction.
General fear for security and privacy breaches deter people from switching to telemedicine. People are not keen to store their personal-data – moreover their medical data – on the internet. This fear is also supported by a lack of legal standards and guidelines regarding data security and protection. There are no clear regulations on how much of a patient’s data could be shared and to which parties it could be shared. This also causes some reluctance among healthcare providers – they are worried about being held accountable for breaching data security. Lack of ICT knowledge, both on the healthcare provider’s and patient’s side also helps in delaying the implementation of telemedicine.
Although telemedicine might be here to stay, there is still a long way before it can replace the traditional healthcare practices.
At ADK Insights, we continue to monitor trends and translate their impact on consumer behaviours, providing insights to help businesses future-proof their innovation. To know more about our experience and how we can help, please contact Nimrod.