Perhaps the single biggest barrier to the adoption and proliferation of telemedicine has been a financial one. Physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers have avoided or resisted the various forms and formats of "telehealth" because there's no obvious path to monetize the time and effort.
Frankly, that's still an issue, but it's changing. Some practitioners and healthcare delivery systems are finding solutions that make telemedicine financially realistic. What's more, these approaches also offer benefits in quality of care, branding, marketing, patient experience and outcomes.
By its various names and definitions, telehealth is being recognized as a means for physicians, hospitals and others to enhance their services, either by reaching more patients or by expanding what they provide. By some definitions, it's home health…remote telemonitoring of patient data. More broadly, it's physician-patient communications via a live video connection.
Physicians are looking at online services for different reasons, according to Healthcare Finance News. "Some want to launch concierge medicine services, offering more or directed services for a higher fee. Others want to expand their practice to bring in more clients or take advantage of their specialties. Still others see telemedicine as an important tool to becoming part of an accountable care organization or patient-centered medical home."
From a healthcare marketing point of view, the prospective benefits of a telemedicine program can be particularly significant. Early-adopter individuals and institutions that capture a first-to-market differentiation can control an increasingly valuable and emerging market.
Situations, circumstances and motivations vary widely. But generally, we see four important change factors at work.
Second, smartphones and wireless tablet devices are also widely available. Nearly half of American adults are smartphone owners, according to a Pew Internet report. "Nearly every major demographic group—men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well-off—experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration over the last year."
And third, peripheral devices for monitoring patient data—from wearable biometric sensors to testing and diagnostic plug-ins—are widely available and often connect via increasingly powerful smartphones. Juniper Research projects more than three million patients will use smartphone-connected monitoring devices in the next few years.
Admittedly, data about telemedicine is relatively new and somewhat mixed. But if some form or format of tele-health is in your future, the benefits could include the following:
Additional reading on this topic is available here,. Our next article about this topic will elaborate the pros and cons and the marketing advantages of incorporating telehealth into a private practice, medical specialty group, and health system or multi-discipline program.