A visit to the doctor’s office usually involves planning time off from work, taking a child out of school and patiently sitting in a holding room while waiting to be seen. It’s the typical routine we’ve all become accustomed to. It’s expected.  But recently, healthcare providers have been making large advances in the technological realm of medicine and have offered a new, less intrusive way of patient care: telemedicine. Telemedicine is expected to make a significant global impact, growing by 18.5 percent each year through 2018 and equating to about seven million patients seeking care via the World Wide Web.

This surge of online care comes as health apps for mobile devices are skyrocketing, leaving little doubt that the power of technology is a budding force within the healthcare industry. Even more important to note is that the existence of technology in healthcare, often places the patient as the decision maker.  Although the concept of telemedicine is still relatively new, patients are catching hold of the idea and beginning to demand a virtual way to manage their healthcare, in a manner that leaves little room for disruption in their day. Among the most notable trends within telemedicine is the virtual doctor’s appointment, conducted via webcam and video technology.

Laptop Work-12Examining patient interest, Software Advice, an electronic health record comparison site, reported the following findings on virtual medical visits:

  • 75 percent of patients who have never used telemedicine expressed interest in the approach as opposed to traditional, in-person visits.
  • Only 16 percent of patients would rather go to the emergency room to care for a minor ailment if they had access to telemedicine.
  • 21 percent of patients surveyed who have engaged in a telemedicine visit say quality of care was similar to or                                                                                       higher than an in-person visit.

Although, as with all care, the goal is to better and empower the patient, physicians stand to gain considerably from the use of concept. A recent study found that telemedicine allows providers to reach beyond the limitations of their physical location to increase their patient load. According to the study, 20 percent of the U.S. population resides in rural areas while only 9 percent of physicians and 10 percent of specialty practices are located in these same areas.  This imbalance of care providers to patients resents a challenge in delivering care that telemedicine can address.  By allowing patients to virtually meet with doctors, the boundaries of location are eliminated which in turn results in more profit to the practice.

As telemedicine continues to make its entry into the healthcare system, many physicians will employ devices that enable them to meet the need for virtual access to patient care.  Adopting a wide range of tactics such as health checkups via phone calls, video exams and the use of medical applications, the healthcare system will begin to see a more streamlined method of care that puts the power of health in the click of a mouse.

Do you think virtual office visits can replace in-person care?  Tell us your thoughts below.