An increasingly aging and diverse global population offers a complex set of challenges to healthcare delivery. Technology support consulting is considered by many a partial solution. Health services today face more chronic illnesses, and greater need for improved long-term outlook for serious conditions such as cancer. UK’s National Information Board recently argued the need for a brand new type of health service to counter these demographic and epidemiological trends. They believe that this different approach will render traditional outpatient consultation models completely obsolete.
Video consultations and remote appointments offer a number of advantages to patients. Not only are they spared the rising travel costs and added inconvenience of braving the traffic, but also get to experience health care and costs lower than ever before.
“Skype Clinics” are increasingly being used for one-on-one and group counseling as well as timely mental health consultations. In fact, a recent study showed Skype to be a popular medium among youngsters with spina bifida. A nurse talked to 12-18 year old spina bifida patients, urging participants to improve upon their self-care and continence. Participants expressed that they felt at ease talking about personal issues via Skype; it was better than communicating face-to-face with a physician. It was also easier for many of them to ‘attend’ these sessions.
According to a widely-cited Park Associates report, more than 22.6 million households are expected to use video consultations by the year 2018. This figure is a massive improvement on a 2013 study that estimated about 900,000 homes used video consultations. The amount of patients and caregivers using video consultations along with a wide range of other physician telemedicine services is poised to grow considerably all through the next few years, according to the Journal of AHIMA reports.
Younger patients, i.e. those between the age of 18 and 34 have adapted to the technology more eagerly. Households with an annual income of more than $50,000 are currently the heaviest users of healthcare communication tools online.
Parks Associates, a leading market intelligence firm, also suggests that a major reason for the rise in telehealth, and specifically video consultations, is that patients want to avoid the ‘office hours’ to visit their doctors and video consultations give them the power to do just that. However, current stats tell us a slightly different story. According to one recent study of 2,300 adult primary care patients at the Rochester–based location of Mayo Clinic, there was no noteworthy change in the occurrence of office visits for patients, even the ones who used an electronic messaging system via an online portal.
All in all, the rise of remote visual communications can help speed the health care delivery process while giving both healthcare experts and patient never-before-seen advantages.