Technology In Telemedicine: How It’s Changing Healthcare

By Alena Nikuliak, Senior Business Analyst and Healthcare IT Consultant, ScienceSoft
Twitter: @ScienceSoft

COVID-19 was an unexpected public health crisis that put healthcare systems around the world on edge. Hospitals struggled to meet the increasing demand for healthcare. There weren’t enough hospital beds, not enough PPE, and certainly not enough staff to treat the increasing number of critically ill patients.

Beyond the disaster unfolding in critical care spaces, the rest of the healthcare system floundered. Trying to provide care to patients while meeting the distancing, masking, and quarantine requirements proved extremely challenging.

Healthcare systems looking for ways to provide care to patients within these pandemic restrictions found a viable solution in the newly emerging technology of telemedicine. Telemedicine played a critical role as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on, allowing healthcare providers to continue to see patients remotely. Patients were protected from potentially catching the coronavirus, while providers were able to keep patients engaged in their health during that stressful and unprecedented time.

As the COVID-19 pandemic starts to wane following a massive vaccination campaign, the legacy of telehealth remains. The technologies that helped healthcare providers get through the worst public health crisis since the HIV/AID epidemic are here to stay. As telemedicine software and tools continue to mature, healthcare is being changed in new and impactful ways. Continue reading to learn more about how telehealth solutions are changing the face of modern healthcare.

Telehealth Technology

Telehealth technology is centered around the development of apps and software. Healthcare organizations can choose to build custom telemedicine apps or choose a SaaS telehealth provider.

These apps generally incorporate the following tools and technology:

  • EHR Integration – Seamless electronic health record integration lets providers have on-demand access to their patients’ health information for easy reference during virtual visits.
  • Appointment Management and Scheduling – Providers require powerful tools to manage their telehealth appointments effectively. One of the best methods is through in-app scheduling, where patients can view all open appointment slots and select one that fits their schedule. Automatic appointment reminders and easy rescheduling are also critical functions.
  • Video and Audio Chats – Telehealth services wouldn’t work without a way for patients and providers to be able to communicate effectively using video conferencing. Clear, crisp video and audio give physicians insight into the patient’s overall health and mental well-being.
  • Messaging – Messaging allows patients and providers to keep in close contact between visits. Any messaging functions need to be secured with end-to-end encryption and multi-factor authentication to protect sensitive patient health information.
  • Payment processing – When payment processing is integrated directly into the telehealth solution, patients can easily see their outstanding balance and make payments. Providers can also handle refunds and send payment reminders.

Reducing Strain on Physicians and Other Healthcare Professionals

The shortage of healthcare professionals is a well-documented problem plaguing healthcare systems. This includes all branches of medicine, from primary and emergency care to surgeons, nurses, CNAs, and other support staff.

Shortages are the worst among primary care doctors, pediatricians, and nurses. As many as 30% of registered nurses say they plan to quit bedside care due to tight staffing, long hours, and problematic hospital administration – a worrisome statistic that will further exacerbate the nurse shortage.

The healthcare profession is experiencing these staffing challenges, even though the compensation levels appear quite high. While the pay appears high at face value, it’s actually quite low when considering the stress and long hours of the job. Healthcare professionals are burnt out, causing more providers to leave the profession. The aging population of the United States is adding further strain as old individuals require a higher level of care. Physicians are struggling to keep up with a massive patient load where many of the patients suffer from multiple chronic diseases.

With telemedicine, healthcare providers can better manage the increasing patient numbers. Telehealth technology lets physicians schedule and offer remote online appointments in lieu of traditional in-office visits.

Instead of hassling with appointments and worrying about patient wait times, trying to rush patients through their appointments to stay on schedule, providers can reduce wait times and speak to patients more naturally. All appointment paperwork is managed within the telemedicine app, so doctors aren’t spending their valuable time finishing paperwork after a long day. And when a last-minute cancellation comes through, this spot can easily be backfilled with a virtual visit.


Traditional in-office visits can be massively inconvenient to busy patients. The patient must first make an appointment, sometimes months in the future. Patients must take time away from their busy lives and drive to the doctor’s office. And if the doctor’s office has fallen behind for the day, they may experience long wait times.

Patients enjoy virtual visits because they can receive care directly from the comfort of their own homes. 87% of patients find telemedicine appointments more convenient, and patients are overwhelmingly satisfied and confident in the care they receive in these appointments.

Access to Care

When healthcare is linked to a physical location, there is obviously going to be a level of inequality and limited access to care for certain geographic areas. The best hospitals in the United States are typically located in population centers. Think the Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkins Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and UCLA Health. This also extends to primary care, urgent care, pediatrics, and specialty care.

In rural areas, it can be hard to find high-quality providers that aren’t booked out for months. Providers in these areas usually operate with a small physician team and support staff but still manage a large set of patients, covering a huge geographic area. Rural patients may need to wait months just to get in with the most local doctor. If the patient needs specialized care, they may be forced to travel hours to reach the closest specialty doctor or specialty therapies.

Telehealth can remove the geographic barriers to healthcare, helping these rural patients receive the top-notch care they deserve. Patients are free to see any doctor within their health insurance plan instead of being limited to a short list of local physicians. With telemedicine platforms, it no longer matters that the patient lives in a rural area.

Reducing Costs

Healthcare within the United States has its fair share of problems, but the high cost of care may be the biggest issue. The entire system is extremely bloated and inefficient, and these inefficiencies are often passed off to patients.

Since telehealth technology streamlines the appointment process and eliminates some of the inefficiencies, there’s major potential to reduce healthcare costs. As healthcare providers see fewer patients in their offices, they can save on additional staff and thus offer virtual visits at a lower price.

Connected Like Never Before

Telehealth platforms offer patients and physicians a variety of ways to communicate. As new communication channels open up, the doctor-patient relationship is also changing. The right tools for videoconferencing are just as effective as face-to-face appointments. With a good Internet connection, patients and physicians can see and hear each other just as they would during an in-person appointment, thanks to high-definition video quality and crisp audio encoding.

And with in-app instant messaging, patients can easily connect with their doctor outside of scheduled virtual visits to discuss changes in symptoms or other health events. Doctors can personally message patients to discuss test results or other health concerns.

With these instant messaging tools, both parties are more engaged in the doctor-patient relationship, which can have a major impact on patient health outcomes and adherence rates.

What’s Next?

The rapid rise of telehealth services underscores how much the healthcare industry needed to innovate and change in the face of new modern tools and technologies. COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the adoption of telemedicine by forcing healthcare providers to utilize emerging technology for virtual visits in order to continue to serve their patients in the face of pandemic restrictions.

Telehealth services are expected to continue to grow at a dramatic pace. The next natural step for telemedicine is the integration with other new technologies like remote patient monitoring, digital therapeutics, and artificial intelligence. It’s great to see the traditional form of healthcare being turned on its head for the first time in decades, and it’s exciting to see the direction telemedicine will take in the future.