Technology has changed, and largely improved, the way Americans receive health care. From digitized record keeping in secure databases to better, more efficient workflow with the arrival of mobile devices and tablets, both health care providers and patients are seeing the benefits. But even the most basic health care remains expensive, leaving many patients wondering if they’ll be able to afford their next routine doctor’s appointment.
Telehealth, or the use of digital information and communication technologies to obtain health care services remotely, is poised to revolutionize the medical industry. Services that have been practically unattainable for a large portion of the population are as close as a video call away. While Telehealth encompasses many different virtual services, voice and video calls are among some of the most promising, allowing people in even the most remote places access to affordable, specialized medical care.
No physical appointment required
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a virtual doctor’s appointment is that it doesn’t require a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office. According to a recent Physician Wait Time Report, one in five people say they have switched doctors because of long wait times, and 30 percent of patients have left a doctor appointment because of a long wait. But a busy office isn’t just inconvenient for the patient. Front desk staff, nurses, and doctors all reap the pressure as they scramble to see dozens of anxious, sick patients. By scheduling a video call instead, doctors can speak to their patients directly in a secure environment. With the help of additional technology, like mobile devices that monitor heart rate and apps that track a patient’s diet, doctors can aid patients from miles away.
Access from anywhere
For people living in rural or remote areas across the U.S., traveling to the doctor is not only a hassle, but practically impossible for some. Patients seeking consultations with or treatments from doctors not available in their local area often have to travel hundreds and even thousands of miles by car or plane to receive proper care. Traveling while ill is difficult in itself, but for the elderly and disabled, the risks can far outweigh the potential for improvement.
By reducing or eliminating the need for travel through telehealth, both patients and their caretakers can save time, energy potential and health scares by addressing the issues with the right doctor in the comfort of the patient’s home.
It’s no surprise that health care in the United States is among the most expensive in the world. And the costs are only rising. Health spending in the U.S. is expected to increase by 5.3 percent in 2018 alone, according to a recent Reuters report.
While not all appointments can be done via video, eliminating the costs of in-person visits and the travel associated with them can add up over time. For a growing number of Americans in need of general and specialized medical care, telehealth is not only an option but a necessity.
While advances must still be made in the health care industry, video calls and other telehealth services signal a shift, one that will allow a growing number of Americans to receive the medical attention they need, no matter their location.