Virtual Healthcare is more of a requisite than a luxury. Of course, most of us fail to see it that way right now but did we foresee the smartphone revolution that took the world by storm? People traveled to space and back, and created nuclear weapons when we held Nokia 1100 phones, yet now I can find innumerable reasons to not give up my not-so-ancient phone and embrace a life with an attention span greater than that of a squirrel on a sugar-high.

Medical imaging was one of the first fields to incorporate Telemedicine. We’ve been using this facility for about four decades now. In the early stages, the practice was referred to as “Tele-radiology” : sending X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and other information from facility to facility for fast use and analysis. This has become such a huge part of routine practice now that the term isn’t even recognized anymore. We don’t get awestruck by the thought of biopsy results from a surgery reaching us within hours from facilities thousands of kilometers away. And that is what the future of Telemedicine, or in broader terms Telehealth looks like.

According to American Well’s 2015 Telehealth survey, 64 percent of patients said they would have a video Telehealth doctor visit. Telemedicine made HR magazine’s Top 7 Benefit Trends to Watch in 2016 as they noted its many benefits for employers and employees. Hard data points in favor of remote healthcare and the immense cost savings cannot be overlooked. An extensive survey of the current data and research on Telemedicine by eVisit revealed that:

  1. About 74% of patients in the U.S. would use Telehealth services.
  2. Most patients are comfortable with having all of their health records securely available on the cloud.
  3. About 74% of patients are comfortable with communicating with their doctors using technology instead of seeing them in person.
  4. About 76% of patients care more about access to healthcare than need for human interactions with their healthcare providers.
  5. Only 16% of patients would prefer to go to the emergency room for a minor ailment if they also could access Telemedicine services.
  6. About 67% of patients said that using Telemedicine somewhat or significantly increases their satisfaction with medical care.

Why Telehealth?

To list a few reasons –

1) Second opinions – I cannot stress how much of a godsend this feature is. The ability to get different, more informed opinions on your condition leaves the entire healthcare industry at your disposal. Use it well.

2) Rural/remote areas – With most of the healthcare providers focusing on cities and metros, rural areas and small towns often end up neglected or receive too little too late because of trickle effect. And, Telemedicine not only fills this gap, but provides exotic seasonings and toppings by connecting the user to top medical professionals in the country.

3) Time-Saver – I lived in Mumbai and it took me over 4 hours for a medical consultation that lasted less than 20 minutes and this was not an exceptional day. This is the rule.

4) Increased Involvement of Patients – Children living, say, in the United Kingdom can choose to be a part of a consultation between their elderly parents and the doctor, and be completely informed on the course of treatment. About 53% of patients said that Telemedicine somewhat or significantly increases their involvement in treatment decisions.

5) Easy on the pockets – In a country like India, which is dominated by out of pocket expenditure on healthcare, every rupee counts. Telemedicine is over-all definitely a more economical experience.

6) Increased Peer Group Interaction – By easily sharing their expertise with other professionals outside their work area, valuable knowledge and experience of diagnosis and treatment can be exchanged.

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