While nothing can take the place of a physician’s reassuring bedside manner, telemedicine may offer the next best thing.
Thanks to high-definition video conferencing, fast network connections and the rising costs of hospital and patient visits, telemedicine use is on the rise. In fact, an August 2012 study, conducted by the research firm GlobalData, predicted that the worldwide telehealth and telemedicine market would grow at a compound rate of 14 percent between 2011 and 2018, reaching $32.6 billion.
“Increasingly, the point of patient care is moving from inside the walls of the hospital, which is the most expensive place to deliver care, to outside those walls,” says Kevin Boyle, business leader for Rubbermaid Healthcare, “Telemedicine is one of the major enablers making that happen.”
A major driver of the telemedicine market is the nationwide shortage of medical specialists, including radiologists, neurologists, dermatologists – and even primary care physicians – particularly in remote rural areas. These shortages will only grow more acute as the Affordable Care Act brings millions more potential insured patients into the national healthcare system.
What’s more, as virtual doctor visit services – connecting patients from their homes with physicians via online video – become more commonplace, insurers and employers are more willing to pay for them. Case in point: WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second biggest health insurer, recently announced plans to offer a new service, which allows people to consult with doctors using video-enabled devices.