Last August 10, 2017, marketing intelligence company, Parks Associates, published a study revealing that up to 60% of US patients were open to online care. Results of the study in were divided into four categories in descending order: Follow-up Care, Ongoing Treatment, Sudden but Non-Life Threatening Occurrence, and Routine Check-ups.
This reflects a new trend among patients today: healthcare at their fingertips. With that is a rise in a demand for virtual healthcare. Best described as a combination of telehealth, telemedicine, and collaborations between connected practitioners, virtual healthcare has provides for a multitude of advantages more than the mere convenience of skipping the commute.
According to a study by Accenture LLP, the typical office visit is time consuming and overly complex. Combined with HIPAA guidelines, patients share information in staggered amounts. This precaution results in a repeated exchanges with the physician as more and more data is needed thus consuming more time. The study believes that 5 minutes on such encounter can be saved if this singular process alone could be accomplished by virtual healthcare. The time adds up with repeated visits becoming faster and easier, saving about $7-billion per year – the equivalent of hiring 37,000 full-time primary care physicians.
The lack of physical barriers will allow physicians and patients more opportunities to reach out to each other. Due to logistic restraints, healthcare is often brushed aside especially in the rural areas or places without the needed specialization. Through virtual healthcare, they will have the opportunity to bridge this gap with technology. An article by Forbes predicts that by the end of 2018, an estimated 22 million households will make use of virtual healthcare. This is a massive jump from 2013’s statistics of 1 million. More than any other tool, the study attributes it to the use of video consultations and virtual follow-ups which will are believed to have boosted average ‘visits’ by up 200% in 2018.
As technology grows however, so does cybercrime. While advancements in Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) have helped to lessen the time by allowing patients safe information repositories prior to appointments, there is more to that in virtual healthcare. Future virtual healthcare technology will feature wearable devices capable of transmitting patient information securely and conveniently. As software develops, AI will have grown so advanced as to be capable of diagnosing patients at a reliable rate without the probable risks.
Through virtual healthcare developments, more people can have access to healthcare via technology. The threats remain as newfound methods of hacking and phishing are constantly pressuring scientists and researchers to come up with ways to counter these. Although not yet up to the golden standard that would completely eliminate the need for visits, an optimistic future is in store for virtual healthcare.
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