Telemedicine is not the future – it’s now. Technology has been actively changing the way consumers receive health care for years. The leading health care systems recognize the cost and care advantages of remote patient monitoring, virtual doctor visits, disease management or the latest mobile apps available for chronic disease management.
Panelists at the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow conference in the District of Columbia told attendees that telemedicine is not just an add-on form of health care, but a necessary component moving forward. Telemedicine has the opportunity to provide health care providers and consumers with:
- Fewer hospital readmissions
- Life-saving diagnoses and treatments
- Lower costs
- Improved care
- Doctor-patient engagement in rural areas
It’s not a matter of if telemedicine will change the hospital of tomorrow, it’s a matter of when, says moderator Dr. Adam Darkins, vice president of medical affairs and enterprise technology development for the Americas region of Medtronic.
Recent surveys show two out of three Americans are now willing to use a device as an adjunct to their health care plan, according to James Tong, engagement manager and mobile health lead at IMS Health.
“It’s just the natural evolution of health,” says Dr. Jay H. Sanders, CEO of The Global Telemedicine Group, and founder and president emeritus of the American Telemedicine Association.
At Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Julia A. Haller, ophthalmologist in chief, says telemedicine has been a focal point of care for more than 15 years.
“Remote home monitoring is already with us in eye disease, and it’s going to be increasingly important,” Haller says, adding that the hospital is now working to identify patients at the highest risk for the progression of blindness outside of the clinic with the use of myVisionTrack and ForeseeHome.
The biggest value of telemedicine is quite possibly the cost of care, says Dr. Andrew R. Watson, vice president of International, and medical director of telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Engagement between doctor and patient is still key, he adds. Online patient portals are providing the transfer of communication between doctors and patients similar to the old-fashioned house call doctors once made.
“We view patient portals as an absolutely critical way to reach out to consumers,” Watson says. “It’s bringing health care back to the patients, back to its roots.”