Telemedicine (and telehealth) comes in many different forms and can offer some unique advantages over more traditional healthcare visits. That being said until very recently, this type of treatment was being under-utilized, and many patients didn’t even know this was an option.
But then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and that quickly changed.
Now you might be unaware of the term telemedicine and what it actually entails, even though you or someone you know will have likely experienced this over the last year or so.
That’s why we have put together this guide. Below we’re going to take a look at the definition of telemedicine, how it was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and what this means for the future of healthcare.
What is telemedicine?
In a nutshell, telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services. There are three common types of telemedicine and these include:
This allows patients to communicate with their physician in real-time, usually over video conference.
Store and forward
This permits healthcare providers to share patient information with other practitioners in different locations to help with the patient’s diagnosis and treatment.
Remote patient monitoring
Finally, this allows remote caregivers to monitor their patients. For example, those that reside at home or in a care home. They do this by using mobile medical devices and equipment to collect data (e.g. monitoring blood sugar levels).
Telemedicine has been around a lot longer than you would think, making its debut in the 1950s. But as technologies evolve, there are more sophisticated ways of administering remote healthcare and monitoring our health.
For example, people are increasingly monitoring their sleep, heart rate, etc., through smartwatches and devices.
Why has telemedicine increased in popularity since the start of the pandemic?
There are a number of reasons why the use of telemedicine has sky-rocketed over the last decade, but during the pandemic, in particular, there was a much bigger spike in people using this type of healthcare. Some of the key reasons for this include:
- Practices being closed or lockdown rules restricting people from actually going into the practice to see a healthcare provider
- People being unable to travel, again due to lockdown limiting people to their local area. This was especially true for those in really rural areas who may need to travel some distance to get healthcare
- What’s more, lots of people rely on public transport to get around, and this was very limited during the pandemic so again, they were unable to travel
- People who perhaps did travel abroad during the pandemic were more concerned about access to healthcare whilst away from home, and telemedicine can solve this issue. Especially for those who had to travel abroad but still needed healthcare services
- Finally, many people were just exercising caution more generally and didn’t want to make potentially unnecessary and risky trips to the doctors if it could be avoided
In fact, telemedicine pretty much became the norm for many throughout the pandemic, but as things slowly get back to normal, does this trend look set to continue? We’re going to discuss this in the next section.
Will this continue in a post-pandemic world?
Excited to get back to normal, there are certainly a lot of pandemic behaviors that people will be quick to stop. That said, there are some big changes that came about as a result of COVID-19 that look set to stay – and telemedicine could be one of them.
Even as people return to medical practices, lots will still be happy to use remote services, and this is because:
- There is no transportation involved, so it can save people a lot of time, effort, and money
- There is no need to take time off of work, especially for those still working at home. They can just take the call as and when
- Telemedicine eliminates the need to find a child or elder care for those who look after their loved ones
- Remote healthcare can give people better access to specialists; they are no longer limited by their geographical location
- And last but not least, people will still be feeling very cautious about COVID-19 and any other potential illnesses. Therefore, they’re more likely to continue exercising this caution to avoid picking up an unwanted illness
So though no one can say for certain at this point, with a number of benefits and have adjusted to this type of healthcare, it’s likely that telemedicine will remain prevalent even once the pandemic is over.