In recent years, the merging of technology and health care has started to change the way medical professionals interact with patients, pharmacies, other health care professionals, and data itself. The current COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of telehealth as communities around the world implemented lock-down guidelines, making routine health care and access to medical professionals more difficult.
It was the first day after the San Francisco Bay Area declared that residents shelter in place, and I was getting ready to see patients. I generally dress in a dry-cleaned shirt, slacks, and a tie. I’m a pediatrician and feel parents deserve to see a physician in professional attire for all the money they pay for healthcare. Shelter in place, however, meant dry cleaning services might be closed for a long while. So I opted instead for jeans and a sweater—easy to wash and dry at home. Inside my car, I felt uncertain.
The use of telemedicine has improved access to care for patients in rural areas while saving millions of dollars in travel expenses. However, insurance coverage of telemedicine services remains an issue, and some physicians have concerns about treating patients during virtual care visits rather than in the clinic, according to several panelists at a recent conference about the future of health care.
In recent years, study after study has highlighted the potential that health care organizations, providers, and patients see in utilizing telemedicine. And economists have predicted that the telemedicine market will be worth as much as $40 billion by the year 2021. But despite the sense of excitement surrounding the technologies, from health care organizations’ and providers’ point of view, there are still barriers that are holding back implementation.
A telemedicine program to manage care for sports-related orthopedic injuries reduces the cost and time of treatment, according to physicians at two prominent Mid-Atlantic health systems. It also rates quite highly on the patient satisfaction scale.