There are many positive signs that point to a bright future for telemedicine. Given the exponential increase in technological advancements, telemedicine is likely to become more widespread and easier to implement and use in the future. There are already a number of ground-breaking tech products which are assisting healthcare providers, such as smart glasses (e.g. Google Glass) and smartwatches (such as the Apple Watch) – these aid in the monitoring of health data for patients, and can send real-time information on a patient’s health to doctors and professionals. Programs such as clmtrackr, which gauge people’s emotional states via their facial expressions, can also be employed for the monitoring of mental health.
The healthcare system currently displays a rising trend for shifting to a fee-for-value payment structure. Owing to this, healthcare delivery is now focused on achieving increasingly high-quality care results, rather than simply emphasizing on increasing the volume of visits.
Peter Kilbridge, an Advisory Board analyst, offered an opinion recently on the fact that there has been a rise in provider-to-provider use of telemedicine and suggested that this could be a promising development for population health management. The Advisory Board stated:
“Telehealth eye exams are popular among diabetic patients, have been shown to be highly effective, and are increasing in use. A Canadian study reported the successful use of image and email-based telemedicine for orthopedic consultation for 1,000 patients for mild-to-moderately severe fractures, saving patients thousands of miles of travel. Other uses include remote eye screening for retinopathy of prematurity, support for pediatric transport, the conduct of remote sleep studies, remote support for pediatric asthma, and others.”
In order to remain at par with the rapid advancements in technology, telemedicine will have to resolve issues at the administrative level; these issues include limits and constraints imposed by state laws on telemedicine, the licensing criteria set out by medical boards which is specific to each state, and uncertain policies on reimbursement which determine whether payers reimburse healthcare providers and patients do not pay out-of-pocket.
However, keeping in view the prediction that the industry of telemedicine will be worth around $36.3 billion by 2020, the 50+ bills in the 113th Congress pertaining to telehealth, and the survey which found 75% patients to be interested in telemedicine, it appears that telemedicine’s future is promising, and increasing demand is likely to help the industry rise above these obstacles.