“The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Neuromancer author and futurist William Gibson said that in regard to cyberspace. He wasn’t specifically speaking about telemedicine, but his quote certainly applies to a world where both patients and doctors are embracing the transformative power of virtual care. Telemedicine is bringing quality care to people in every corner of the world – which is why GlobalMed’s Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Dean Smith, quoted Gibson when he talked to Becker’s Hospital Review about the factors driving virtual care’s meteoric rise.
In its roundup of HIMSS innovations, Becker’s also noted Dr. Smith’s bold prediction: that virtual care will supplant ambulatory care as the second rail of healthcare. Yes, you read that right. While telemedicine has currently taken its place alongside acute and ambulatory care as the third rail of care delivery, we are headed into a future where virtual care will become as natural and preferred as standard office visits are now.
Don’t believe it? Consider these three reasons:
1- Data-Integrated Technology
Today’s data-driven devices have elevated virtual care to an evidence-based, collaborative experience. Telemedicine solutions integrate with devices like ultrasounds or x-ray machines, empowering providers to deliver research-based consultations. Simple video calls, with diagnosis and treatment based on reported symptoms, are yesterday’s telehealth.
The latest technology also hits the performance trifecta: world-class security, reliable uptime, and intuitive user experience. Today’s telemedicine solutions take IT out of the equation so both doctor and patient can focus on treatment.
2- Cost Savings
The future of healthcare is a partial mystery. When will we develop cures for Alzheimer’s disease or cystic fibrosis? Will nanobots really deliver chemotherapy straight into cancer cells? We don’t know yet – but we do know that healthcare costs will probably still need to be controlled.
Virtual care offers relief from spiraling healthcare expenses in multiple ways. Patients no longer need to pay for transportation or sacrifice lost wages to visit a distant specialist. Instead of putting off time-consuming travel, they can receive treatment before their conditions worsen and require costlier care. Telemedicine also helps hospitals provide care to a greater number of patients without filling beds and waiting rooms – improving post-acute care and reducing unnecessary ER visits and readmissions, while lowering overhead.
3 - Patient Expectations
Patients are ultimately consumers – and they’re bringing consumer expectations of convenience and speed to the healthcare experience. Older patients may remember the days when small-town doctors made house calls, but the fastest-growing patient population grew up with online banking and telecommuting. To them, the idea of taking time off from work, driving to a distant hospital and sitting in a waiting room with other sick people looks pointlessly burdensome for a 15-minute visit.
Telemedicine offers the immediacy and flexibility these patients want from healthcare. 60 percent of Millennials are enthusiastic about telehealth; 40 percent rate telemedicine as an extremely or very important option when choosing providers. Generation Z, born into the digital age, will likely have even higher expectations for virtual care. Their demands will shape the future face of healthcare delivery.
Setting the Stage for a Virtual Future
Here’s something else William Gibson said: “The future is not google-able.” It would be hubris to think that we know exactly what healthcare will look like by 2030. New modalities and technologies will develop, possible pandemics or breakthrough cures could occur, and healthcare organizations will shift priorities in response to patient needs. But we do know that virtual care is here to stay. Providers who build their telemedicine practice now will position themselves for success in the future to come.