Technology is transforming the healthcare sector. New Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices enable healthcare providers to diagnose patient issues faster and more accurately. They can also monitor patients and deliver care remotely using IoMT. In the case of patients, they can monitor and manage their own health using wearables. These and other technologies are critical facilitators of telemedicine, which gives doctors and other healthcare providers the ability to diagnose issues, prescribe medications, and monitor patient status without ever seeing them in-person.
With upwards of 20% of the world’s population—or 1.2 billion people—expected to be over the age of 65 by 2025, the importance of delivering healthcare solutions through new mechanisms such as IoMT and telemedicine will continue to increase. Additionally, research shows consultations with healthcare providers for minor ailments are more convenient and less expensive than office or emergency room visits. This technological revolution in healthcare will be critical in closing the anticipated gap between patients needing care and the number of providers, particularly in the face of a looming 400,000-physician shortage within a decade.
Telemedicine Transforms the Visible to the Doctor’s Office
The concept of telemedicine changes the dynamics of the typical doctor’s office or even hospital. Doctors are embracing virtual office visits that make it possible for patients to receive medical care anytime, anywhere. Patients access doctors and healthcare providers any time of the day or night regardless of their location using their smartphones, video conferencing, and other technologies. With the typical doctor’s visit taking 2.6 weeks on average to schedule and two hours of travel and waiting, it’s very little wonder why patients rate telemedicine very highly.
While many states prohibited most facets of telemedicine in the past (e.g., physicians could not write a prescription without first seeing a patient in person), many have changed their laws. Further, recognizing the fact that telemedicine can reduce the overall cost of delivering healthcare, three-quarters of healthcare insurers require some form of telemedicine. Thus, it is no wonder that healthcare providers are increasingly turning to telemedicine when delivering care to their patients.
Due to these technological changes, patients no longer need to come into physical offices when seeking diagnosis of certain ailments and the ongoing monitoring of issues. Rather, healthcare providers can see patients without having them come into the office. This also means doctors and nurses do not need to be in the office when dispensing diagnoses, prescribing medications, and monitoring ongoing issues.
Implications of Telemedicine
So, what are some of the core takeaways when it comes to virtual offices in healthcare?
1. Mobile Explosion—from Doctors to Patients
It is hard to believe, but there are over 165,000 healthcare-related apps in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. Care providers and patients download these apps and use them for an array of different healthcare-related purposes. Whenever I see my doctor, the first thing he does when deciding what prescription to give me is look up the diagnoses on his mobile device and sort through the different pharmaceutical options. Concurrently, Patients are just as interested in mobile apps or mobility in general—from conducting their own medical research to monitoring their health.
2. Time Spent in the Office
With the advent of telemedicine, doctors and nurses aren’t tied to a physical office to deliver care to their patients. This means they can spend less time in the “doctor’s office” and more time providing care to patients from virtually anywhere.
3. Physical Permanent Offices
Virtual offices may allow some healthcare providers to downsize their physical permanent office space. New scheduling applications and telemedicine reduce or even eliminate the need for waiting rooms. With real estate and leases sky high in some metropolitan areas, this can have a dramatic impact on profit margins. For those that require conference room space for larger meetings, rented meeting rooms are a great alternative. Healthcare providers can rent these on demand based on meeting requirements—from staff meetings, to patient consultations, to other non-health-related meetings.
4. Apps Available Anytime, Anywhere, and Any Device
With virtual offices, healthcare providers need access to the critical applications such as electronic medical records (EMR). These must be available 24x7, highly available and reliable, and can be accessed on all types of devices. When these apps aren’t available, healthcare providers are unable to deliver the care their patients require.
5. Video Conferencing and Smartphones
For a proper diagnosis of a medical issue, healthcare providers require more than a phone conversation. Rather, they need to see the patient. But this doesn’t mean they must see them in person. With many video conferencing services, it is possible for physicians to examine a patient virtually. Combined with smartphone technologies and attachments that take vital signs, listen to heart sounds, and visualize ear drums, doctors can conduct a medical assessment as if they were with the patient in person.
Patients Embrace Telemedicine
Not only is the digital era overturning traditional business models (e.g., retail, banking, taxis, etc.), but it is changing the face of healthcare. Virtual offices enable healthcare providers to optimize the time spent with patients—delivering better care while reducing costs. At the same time, the convenience of virtual offices is seen by patients as a much welcome change—nearly three-quarters express satisfaction in telemedicine.