What we call telemedicine nowadays actually started in the 1950s, when a few hospitals and university medical facilities started to look for methods and techniques that would allow them to share images and information via telephone. In one of the first instances of the successful usage of telemedicine, two healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania, U.S. transferred radiological images over the telephone. In the initial days, telemedicine was majorly used for connecting doctors working in one location to specialists somewhere far away.
This method was hugely beneficial to patients or populations in rural areas, where specialists were not easily available. As the systems and equipment used for connecting healthcare practitioners across different regions became more expensive and complex over the next few years, especially with the development of technologically advanced devices, the use of the approach started becoming limited. However, the advent of the internet and the subsequent emergence of video transmission and smart devices completely transformed the practice of telemedicine and made this technique affordable and convenient.
Furthermore, the development of advanced technologies opened up the possibility of providing remote healthcare and medical treatment to patients in their homes, offices, or any other place. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is further pushing up the popularity of telemedicine. This is because telemedicine is an excellent alternative to conventional hospital visits for seeking treatment in current times when social distancing and keeping oneself isolated are the need of the hour.
The rising popularity of the concept is propelling the advancement of the global telemedicine market, the valuation of which is predicted to grow from $27.8 billion to $144.2 billion from 2019 to 2030. Furthermore, the market is predicted to progress at a CAGR of 15.8% from 2020 to 2030.
Is Telemedicine Same as Telehealth?
Although the terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, a clear difference exists between the two. Telehealth includes a diverse range of services and technologies used for providing patient care. Moreover, telehealth includes both remote clinical and non-clinical services, such as administrative meetings, continuous medical education, and training of healthcare practitioners. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), telehealth consists of “Surveillance, health promotion and public health functions.”
On the other hand, telemedicine involves the usage of software and electronic communication for providing clinical services to patients, so that they won’t need to rely on hospital visits. This technology is mostly used for the management of chronic ailments and conditions, specialist consultation, follow-up visits, medication management, and various other clinical services that can be delivered remotely, via secure audio and video connections.
Rising Prevalence of Lifestyle-Associated and Chronic Diseases Driving Telemedicine Popularity
With the growing incidence of various chronic and lifestyle-associated diseases, the demand for telemedicine is rising rapidly across the globe. As per the findings of the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic diseases are responsible for 60% of the deaths across the world and are, therefore, the main causes of mortality. The growing adoption of sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary choices, and the lack of access to proper preventive care are the main factors fueling the incidence of chronic diseases, such as cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, and stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
Besides the aforementioned factors, genetics, oxidative stress, various environmental factors, and growing geriatric population in several countries are also propelling the prevalence of chronic diseases. According to the 2019 World Population Ageing report produced by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), geriatric people (people aged above 65 years) accounted for 20.3% of the total population of Europe in 2000. Furthermore, the report said that this share would rise to 36.6% by 2050.
Surging Healthcare Costs Also Pushing Up Patient Preference for Telemedicine
The rising healthcare costs in clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals are rapidly becoming a huge cause for concern among both people and healthcare practitioners. The main factors that are augmenting the costs of medical treatments and patient care are the development of expensive technologies and medicines, soaring costs of healthcare products and services, increasing administrative costs in healthcare settings, and escalating fees of doctors and physicians.
As per a report published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in the U.S., healthcare expenditure is predicted to rise from an average of 17.7% to 19.7% of the GDP from 2018 to 2028. Besides making healthcare inaccessible to a lot of individuals, the mushrooming healthcare costs are also increasing the burden on healthcare practitioners.
As a result, both healthcare providers and patients are preferring telemedicine, which is turning out to be an excellent alternative for accessing quality healthcare at affordable costs. Thus, it can be said that telemedicine is an efficient and affordable method for accessing healthcare and reducing the ballooning healthcare costs around the world.
Geographically, North America is the Hub of Telemedicine
Across the globe, the adoption of telemedicine was observed to be the highest in North America in the last few years, and this trend is likely to continue in the future years. This would be a result of the rising incidence of lifestyle-associated and chronic diseases, growing geriatric population, and the increasing number of initiatives being taken by the government of the two regional countries, including the allocation of huge funds and grants, for the development of telemedicine.
According to many reports and surveys, the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases is considerably high among the geriatric people in North America. As a result, the rising geriatric population is positively impacting the demand for telemedicine and other advanced healthcare solutions in the region. As per the UN’s 2019 World Population Ageing report, nearly 59.9 million people in North America were in the age bracket of 65 years or above in 2019. Furthermore, the report estimates that the population of such people in the region will rise to 96.3 million by 2050.
Hence, it can be said with certainty that the popularity of telemedicine will continue to surge all over the world in the forthcoming years, primarily because of the growing geriatric population, surging prevalence of chronic and lifestyle-associated diseases, and increasing healthcare costs in several countries around the world.
Source: P&S Intelligence