What's keeping telemedicine from reaching its potential?

Payment procedures must be figured out and more doctors and hospitals must be persuaded to offer telemedicine before telemedicine's potential can truly be met, Robin Farmanfarmaian, a founder of Silicon Valley's technology and humanities-focused Singularity University, writes in a recent MedGadget post.

Some of the benefits of telemedicine technology, according to Farmanfarmaian, include:

  • Cost reductions: When patients stay home, healthcare facilities and patients save money and doctors and hospitals can process more patients overall, Farmanfarmaian says.
  • Greater patient engagement: Adds Farmanfarmaian, "Going to the doctor" is less of a drag with telemedicine--no taking time off work or traveling. Consultations are easier, so compliance will increase.
  • Reduction in diseases transmission: Waiting rooms and hospitals are "hotbeds" for germs and viruses and hospital-acquired infections like sepsis, Farmanfarmaian says.

She also points to some technologies poised to take telemedicine to the next level, like cloud solutions, tricorders (handheld diagnostic devices), expanded Internet and mobile phone coverage and apps.

Some hospitals CIOs are embracing cloud storage, despite reservations about security, as reported in January.  

At the mHealth summit last December, Federal Communications Committee Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn called wireless spectrum the "lifeblood" to mobile healthcare.

"We need to further enhance ability of low income U.S. citizens to stay in touch with a healthcare team--and keep the mHealth promise," Clyburn said.

Revenue in the telehealth services industry is expected to grow by an annualized 30.7 percent to $320.2 million in the next five years, including revenue growth of 23.1 percent in 2014, according to a recently published survey. According to the report's authors, existing legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, as well as pending legislation to expand federal reimbursement for telehealth services will be vital to that growth.

"Telemedicine can provide affordable, convenient care to a vast pool of patients. It has the potential to improve the quality of care, lower costs, improve patients' health, and ultimately save lives," Farmanfarmaian writes. "The devices and technologies are here; it's up to us to take advantage of them."

To learn more:
- read the full post in MedGadget

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