Telemedicine has been a successful solution to ease the pressure on doctors and other medical professionals during the pandemic. Digital healthcare solutions can reduce in-person appointments, waiting room time and even costs for patients. The rapid growth of telemedicine now has positioned the healthcare industry toward a more digital and efficient future.
Trends and Future Development
Recent tracking of telemedicine reveals that it's growing at a steady rate due to the urgent need to practice social distancing. It's expected to become a $66 billion market by 2021, according to Mordor Intelligence.
And so far, 3,000 percent of growth in telehealth specifically has occurred in 2020, beginning with the mass shutdowns in mid-March. The transformation to more digital solutions during the pandemic has accelerated telehealth use by two years, according to Ido Schoenberg, CEO of telehealth company Amwell.
The growth of the telemedicine industry is closely associated with these current trends:
- Constantly Improving Mobile Devices and Healthcare Apps - As smartphone technology continues to make electronic communication more powerful, healthcare apps are contributing to continuous remote access to professional healthcare expertise. The apps can connect patients with a trained medical specialist to answer questions.
- Increasing Decentralization of Healthcare - Experienced healthcare professionals are steadily moving away from large hospitals in favor of running their own small businesses. This shift toward decentralized medical support allows healthcare entrepreneurs to focus on serving their communities.
- Growing Awareness of Cybersecurity - Since the healthcare industry deals with confidential patient data, it must pay close attention to meeting HIPAA regulations. Protecting the privacy of patients has become a top concern in the industry, with a focus on using the most robust cybersecurity solutions available.
- Merging of Small Players - Many small businesses have been wiped out by the pandemic shutdown, clouding the future for even healthcare clinics. The solution to keeping the doors open has been small firms merging together to form bigger companies. In some cases, small firms develop alliances with other small players to deliver telehealth solutions. The merger trend will likely continue in the near future to strengthen balance sheets.
- Reduction in Proprietary Solutions - As telehealth becomes more widely embraced, there will be more user-friendly technologies designed specifically for the healthcare industry. Therefore, less emphasis will be placed on proprietary hardware and software. Tech giants currently working on solutions include Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.
- Less Crowded Emergency Rooms - With the growing popularity of telehealth, less people are showing up in emergency rooms. Certain injuries or conditions require immediate care, but many times non-emergencies can be a strain on medical practitioners. The more patients can resolve minor health issues with information or advice over the internet, the more doctors can focus on the most serious cases.
Going more virtual is changing patients’ relationships with their doctors, and electronic communication is at the heart of this shift toward more digitally driven technology for hospitals to interact with patients. In-person visits can now be planned virtually, while the doctor's office sends email reminders to patients near the appointment date. Patients can check their smartphones in their cars to know the exact time the doctor is ready to see them. These are just a few of the many benefits that telemedicine offers.
After the coronavirus eventually goes away, telemedicine will still be here. It's simply a more efficient way to serve patients. Essentially, telemedicine is more than a trend, a remedy, or an experiment. It's here to stay.