What Is Telemedicine – And Why It’s Here to Stay
Telemedicine has experienced a dramatic increase throughout the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At ZYTO, we’ve witnessed this growth firsthand as we received and shipped out a record number of Remote Hand Cradles to our customers in the last month. ZYTO Remote and other similar telehealth technologies help healthcare professionals assess patients without risking exposure, whether it be testing or providing routine client care and services.
What Is telemedicine?
Telemedicine involves using Internet, phone, mobile equipment, and other technologies to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. The patient can get the advice and care they need anywhere, at any time as long as they have access to the Internet and/or a phone along with any other required equipment from the practitioner.
The care that a provider can offer using telemedicine includes diagnosis, treatment options, and prescriptions. In addition to live telemedicine where the practitioner interacts with the patient in real-time, telemedicine can also consist of monitoring a patient remotely as well as sharing the patient’s information with other health professionals to improve health outcomes.
Telemedicine vs. telehealth
The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably. However, they have some distinct differences. Telemedicine is more specific in that it involves assessment and treatment of the patient. And in fact, the word “telemedicine” literally means “healing at a distance.”1
Telehealth, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes the use of technologies and information to support health education, administration, and care in addition to treating a client. 2 In other words, telehealth is not merely a clinical service, but rather the means to improve health education and healthcare processes.
Telemedicine use before COVID-19
As mentioned, telemedicine and telehealth services have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak. In March of 2020, for example, telehealth provider Teladoc Health reported a 50% increase in call volume, while provider Amwell reported a 58% increase in activity.3
But the truth is that telemedicine was growing steadily before the novel coronavirus came on the scene. In hospitals alone, the use of telehealth services including telemedicine grew from 35% in 2010 to 76% in 2017.4 In addition, 9 out of 10 employers now offer telemedicine services to their employees, which is up from just 18% in 2014.5
While less than 2% of American employees used telemedicine in 2018, this number has spiked dramatically since the pandemic. However, there was evidence of steady growth before the outbreak. Millennials are the main drivers of telemedicine demand, as 40% of them said that telemedicine option for their health plan was either very important or extremely important in a recent survey.6
Why telemedicine is here to stay
The numbers show that telemedicine is indeed here to stay and see a significant increase in adoption in the coming years. Before COVID-19, projections showed the telemedicine segment growing from $41.4 billion to $64 billion by 2025 in the United States alone. Some of the factors cited for this increase include:
- Rising usage of smartphones
- Increased adoption of wearable diagnostic tools
- Availability and use of telemedicine apps
- Wider use of telemedicine by health providers
- Increased prevalence of chronic disorders7
The COVID-19 pandemic may increase these projections even more. And while we will likely see a decrease in telemedicine use as COVID-19 cases decline, the pandemic has brought greater awareness to the need for and availability of telemedicine. Thus, providing and improving telehealth services should be a major part of any practitioner, network marketer, or wellness store owner’s business strategy moving forward.
Overcoming barriers to telemedicine adoption
Though telemedicine has seen study growth and a recent surge in adoption, there are still barriers that are preventing it from being implemented into certain practices. One traditional barrier has been the high cost of entry. Cost may still be an issue for some. However, incorporating telemedicine is becoming more and more economical for small and large providers alike. In other words, it may be cheaper than you think to incorporate telehealth and telemedicine into a practice or wellness business.
Another barrier is security. While in-office visits allow providers to store and transfer information on a closed network, doctor-patient confidentiality may be compromised when communicating with patients on an open network. Practitioners can overcome this barrier by integrating HIPPA-compliant communication platforms such as doxy.me, VSee, and Zoom Healthcare, as well as other HIPPA-compliant tools such as ZYTO technology.
One other barrier worth noting is that certain types of practitioners may need to physically see and work on the patient to treat them. A chiropractor, for example, needs to work on the patient directly. However, this doesn’t mean that a chiropractor can’t benefit by using telemedicine to assess patients and provide other types of treatments that can be done by the patient in-home. A combination of in-person and at-home visits can be beneficial for both the client and practitioner.
1. Strehle, E.M., & N. Shabde. “One hundred years of telemedicine: does this new technology have a place in paediatrics?” Archives of Disease in Childhood 91, no. 12 (2006): 956–959.
2. “Telemedicine and Telehealth.” The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Healthit.gov.
3. Roth, Mandy. “4 Ways You Haven’t Thought about Using Telehealth during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Healthleaders Media, a Simplify Compliance brand. Healthleadersmedia.com.
4. “Fact Sheet: Telehealth.” American Hospital Association. Aha.org.
5. “Should I Offer Telemedicine to My Employees?” eHealthinsurance Services, Inc. ehealthinsurance.com.
6. Guttman, Dave. “25 Statistics You Need To Know About Healthcare & Telemedicine.” First Stop Health, LLC. Fshealth.com.
7. “U.S. Telemedicine Industry Analysis Report, Growth Potential, Price Trends, Competitive Market Share & Forecast, 2019 – 2025.” Market Study Report. Marketstudyreport.com.