Telemedicine: The Biggest Digital Health Trend of 2015 (Here's Why)

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Last year saw exponential growth for the digital health market with funding in the first three quarters alone surpassing $5 billion, according to Mashab...

Last year saw exponential growth for the digital health market with funding in the first three quarters alone surpassing $5 billion, according to Mashable – close to double of what was invested in all of 2013 – and numerous research analysts have been predicting that 2015 will see a huge increase in the integration of telemedicine.

Research firm Kalorama Information named telemedicine as one of the top five health trends for the year while IDC Health Insights projected that 65 percent of transactions with healthcare organizations will be mobile by 2018.

Aside from wearables and genomics, telemedicine may be the biggest digital health trend of 2015.

Why? Well, for a number of reasons. But we can summarize them down to four in particular.

1. Faster internet connections and better software will provide a better video chat experience than before;

2. With mobile devices, patients can consult a doctor from anywhere;

3. The adoption of electronic health records makes it easier for doctors to access patient records; and,

4. Patients are comfortable with asynchronous messaging, which can be more time-efficient for doctors.

From the provider’s perspective, telemedicine has the potential to save money and make better use of time. And from a patient’s perspective, telemedicine means shorter wait times and ease of access.

[READ MORE] Is Google Joining the World of Telemedicine? 

While the youth would seem most likely to use technology for healthcare, telemedicine could also have a major impact on the older generation as they are more likely to have difficulty traveling to see a doctor in person.

In the last few years, more and more patients have increasingly looked to retail pharmacies in their neighborhoods for routine healthcare services because it is more convenient than visiting their doctor. The logical next step is that they won’t have to leave their homes at all.

This is where telemedicine comes in.

Thanks to startups like Doctors on Demand, Medicast and Twine Health, consumers are already being allowed direct access to doctors through their smartphones. In the future, providers may partner with platforms such as these to connect their doctors with patients.

Additionally, these apps could be offered through employers or insurance companies to help reduce costs or improve the quality of care.

Telemedicine has the capability to not only become an investment opportunity, but a trend that can improve the doctor-patient relationship, as well. 

But while the industry is poised to grow exponentially in the coming months, there are still some major obstacles to overcome.

[READ MORE] The Richest Doctor Ever to Speak at American Telemedicine Association 2015

According to Chirag Patel, managing director of Highnote Foundry, there are three things that need to happen for telemedicine use to expand.

1. Virtual diagnosis and on-the-spot treatment are combined.

“Mobile-friendly diagnostic devices enable doctors to complete a more thorough diagnosis and provide on-the-spot treatment,” Patel stated. “As these devices become more accessible, patient treatment can begin immediately before the patient even gets off the phone, resulting in better outcomes for the patient and the health care.”

2. The best in connected devices need to be used.

Wearables and technologies that put patients in control are growing, but this data has yet to reach all physicians for use.

“By creating a normalized set of patient and care data and by integrating these connected devices, telehealth providers can both lower the cost of care and improve overall patient outcomes,” Patel said.

He additionally advised providers to invest in scalable models of integrating data from a variety of devices, rather than relying on a single system or product alone.

3. Post-treatment care and compliance are provided.

“Prevention and compliance should be the real goals of telemedicine and are the way to truly drive significant reduction in costs,” Patel said. “To do this, providers need to understand the patient’s past medical history and also capture all of the new data associated with telemedicine into an electronic record that follows the patient.”

Monitoring patients in the first 30 days after discharge to prevent readmissions is one of the great opportunities for telemedicine and remote monitoring.

The promise of telemedicine has been heard before, but it looks as though this year that promise is set to be realized. Consumers are excited to receive the service and providers finally have both the financial incentive and technological capability to make it a reality. 

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