AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Crossing the Point of No Return in the Delivery of Healthcare

For a number of years now, the prediction that telemedicine technology was on the verge of unabridged expansion has been as common as snow fall in the Rockies in January. But in reality expansion has always fallen short of the predictions.  At the beginning of each year loyal proponents touted that telemedicine would revolutionize the healthcare delivery model and change the way patients interface with their healthcare providers, only to encounter a number of stubborn road blocks that managed to slow the process of full utilization and implementation of the technology. This year, due to the convergence of more affordable technology and changing patient expectations, many industry leaders are once again claiming 2015 to be the long-awaited year of the break-out.

Telemedicine has been making significant progress in making specialized care, such as stroke and other neurological care, more accessible to patients who live in remote outlying areas not served by major urban medical centers. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine. But the full utilization and benefits of telemedical technology has been allusive.  Now there are several market and technological factors that could make 2015 the year that significant progress is achieved in the application of telehealth across all healthcare sectors.

With the predicted significant financial benefits and efficiencies for healthcare providers, insurance companies and ultimately the consumer, the global telehealth market is predicted to approach $27 billion by 2016. By 2018, it is expected that 65 percent of interactions with healthcare providers and organizations will be performed via virtual communication devises which will eventually be interconnected with an ever expanding array of mobile and wearable monitoring gadgets. Major healthcare players from pharmacy to health insurance companies and technology companies like Google are taking notice and making significant investments in telemedicine technology. Four factors that will insure expanded adoption in the coming year are beginning to come into focus:

Payment for telemedicine services. Government payers like Medicare and Medicaid as well as private healthcare insurers have broadened reimbursements for telemedical services. As payment barriers continue to be resolved utilization of telemedicine across the healthcare spectrum will advance more rapidly.

Market introduction of communication technology improvements. Advances in wearable technology will provide opportunities to interlink the monitoring devices with a comprehensive telemedicine communication system which will enhance remote diagnosis and virtual treatment in many cases. Long awaited improvements and increased adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) will eventually benefit overall healthcare. By making patient medical history records easily and immediately available to virtual caregiver’s telemedicine services will have a greater opportunity to expand beyond the current limitations.

The consumerization of health care. Patient push-back over faceless physician encounters was once promoted as a formidable barrier to the implementation of telehealth. As patients became responsible for a larger share of their healthcare costs, tech user consumers began to embrace the convenience and lower cost provided by virtual remote care. From retail health insurance stores to health care kiosks in retail outlets, pharmacies and shopping malls, patients are embracing the concept of consumerization. The free market concepts that are already an established staple of other industry markets is turning the traditional delivery of healthcare into a business to consumer (B2C) model. Today’s healthcare consumers are increasingly setting the terms of service and expecting high-quality, personalized and convenient experiences from their healthcare encounters.

The state by state licensing of physicians has been a formidable barrier to multi-state expansion of telemedicine for years. “The morass of regulations and paperwork required by each state licensing board is a mountainous obstacle to efficient medical care throughout these United States. The recognition of multistate licensure would ease this restriction and improve access to experts for patients of all 50 states. I foresee the easing of these restrictions in the coming year,” says Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Director and Founder of the Stroke Center of Northside Hospital in Atlanta and AcuteCare Telemedicine CEO.

The long anticipated year of telemedicines break-out may finally be upon us. While many may find the new reality of healthcare delivery unsettling and disruptive, telemedicine may have finally crossed over the point of no return.


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