6 Current and Future Telemedicine Trends

By Kayla Matthews, HealthIT writer and technology enthusiast, Tech Blog
Twitter: @ProductiBytes

Telemedicine — providing clinical healthcare remotely — was born out of modern technologies and a growing reliance on the internet.

As you well know, many devices are now Internet-enabled, falling into the realm of IoT or the greater Internet of Things. Hardware and systems in the medical industry are no exception, the least of which are tools used in hospitals and healthcare centers.

When introduced, telemedicine was for providing healthcare to people far from medical facilities. It was also used to support disenfranchised locations where there is a shortage of medical professionals.

Today, things are a little different due to how interconnected we are as a society. Everyone has a mobile device and carries it on them, so they always have some access to a network. That’s before taking into account desktop computers, laptops, tablets and other devices.

This has transformed telemedicine so it’s now a tool for providing and receiving convenient healthcare. There are no waiting rooms, no lengthy wait or assessment times within the office itself and there’s no longer a need to venture outside the home.

Of course, many telemedicine practices are reserved for minor conditions — classified as non-urgent or non-emergency.

The practice has become so popular, Mordor Intelligence predicts the global telemedicine market will be worth more than $66 billion by the end of 2021.

It’s clear telemedicine already transformed the world of healthcare, and yet every day it continues to volley the industry to new heights.

1. Mobile and On-Demand Services
Estimates claim 65 percent of all healthcare related interactions will happen on mobile by the end of 2018. From a poll in 2015, 80 percent of doctors revealed they already use smartphones and medical apps as part of their regular practice, a stat which must have increased since.

Both of these statistics show mobile services have become commonplace in the medical industry. What’s particularly exciting about this, is patients retain access to said services, documents and resources even after a visit. That provides on-demand, always accessible content which can help improve their health and lives.

Often, doctors will make themselves available as necessary so people can receive on-call care, as well.

2. More Robust Patient Data Collection Strategies
Mobile and smart technologies always collect, process and transmit vital data. It can help further medical services. Doctors meeting with a patient via a mobile app, for instance, can access activity stats to build a profile of their patient’s exercise regimen. Proprietary sensors can also connect via mobile apps to track health stats.

Robust data is an invaluable tool in the moment, but it can also feed into an analytics tool to extract further insights. Imagine collating hundreds of patient reports to identify new risk factors for illnesses. Or, identifying and dealing with rare, undocumented side effects of medications that patients experience.

3. Streamlined and Mobile Payments
Mobile solutions are about more than healthcare and active service, they introduce new business options too. Healthcare facilities, for example, can now accept mobile payments. This introduces new ways to collect funds, like financing or installment plans for costly operations.

Patients may leave a practice avoiding conventional check-out, instead opting to pay via mobile. This has the effect of speeding up the customer service experience.

Furthermore, new revenue generation opportunities instantly open up, as well. Healthcare providers can charge a subscription for on-demand services and remote sessions. They can also bill by the session. The type of service would play a key role here — a remote visit that requires further testing might be deemed a “premium” or higher-priced solution.

It’s also important to consider the fair market value of telemedicine or the concept of assessing the valuation of such services. Remote medicine introduces new revenue opportunities, but you must value it before practicing.

4. New Healthcare Service Opportunities
Of course, the ability to deliver remote services in and of itself is a new opportunity. Yet, several other possibilities are now available too.

Therapy sessions — solo and couple — for instance, can now carry out when your patients are not locally available. If they go on vacation, for example, a psychiatrist can still host sessions, where before this would not be possible.

Field experts can communicate with others in the industry, offering advice, guidance and further training without leaving their current post.

Quick, one-off sessions where patients need a medication refill or new prescription altogether are now possible, as well.

5. Regulatory and Policy Compliance
Telemedicine, though advancing quickly, is still in its infancy. Government and official regulations and even company policies have yet to catch up to its adoption. Mobile usage especially will help dictate how these guidelines are created and formed requiring new and innovative solutions for security, privacy and compliance.

6. New Patient Markets
Conventionally, a practice or healthcare facility may only treat patients within the local vicinity. Obviously, this is a limitation of in-person and face-to-face interactions. You cannot very well service someone in another country without the right tools and solutions.

Mobile and telemedicine platforms, however, suddenly make this possible. You can actually provide services to someone in another country, or several states away. What this means is healthcare professionals and businesses now have access to a larger patient market than before. You’re not simply confined to a local area or region.

The Future of Telemedicine Is Open
One thing is certain, the current state of healthcare and the future of telemedicine is completely open and limitless.

There are so many new possibilities and opportunities, it’s difficult to fathom how the industry will change over the coming years.

There are likely many practices and solutions we could never hope to imagine, and that’s more than promising, it’s exciting too.