Telemedicine and teleconsultation gain interest from patients and doctors
6 May 2020
6 May 2020
Improved technology and increased access to smart devices have enabled people of all ages to use technology in all aspects of their lives, and health care could not be an exception. Many health systems have already implemented a virtual health strategy, but the elements of these strategies vary across countries. Governments, such as Germany and the Netherlands, aim at making digital health more widely available and are encouraging the healthcare sector to develop it further. In the Netherlands, the goal is to let patients have access to their medical records, monitor their health and share data with their health providers, and eventually be able to contact their provider 24 hours a day via a screen. These are expected to be achieved by governmental actions that support digital health innovators, make digital data sharing easier, and share digital health knowhow. In Germany, doctors are able to prescribe drugs digitally using health (mobile) apps, as well as provide video and online consultations. Additionally, Germany plans to introduce electronic health records (EHRs) for patients with statutory insurance by 2021.
The above actions are clear examples of governmental response to citizen’s needs towards digital healthcare. According to research, health-related use of technology has increased significantly increased over the past years, particularly for measuring fitness and monitoring health issues. Currently, wearables and apps can help people track their health and fitness (for example, sleep quality, dietary goals, exercise), monitor vital statistics (blood pressure, pulse, breathing function), receive medication alerts or reminders, and measure, record, and transmit data about medications or treatments. The majority of people are trying, or are interested in trying, virtual care. The main reason is the convenience that telemedicine is offering. More importantly, patients with a chronic disease, and those whose conditions have a major impact on their lives, are even more likely to report high satisfaction with virtual visits.
Of course, hospitals and physician practices should consider training clinicians to conduct virtual consultations. Based on surveys, patients score the “personalization of care” as their top priority, followed by cost and convenience. The personalization of care refers to experiences such as feeling heard and understood, not feeling rushed, and having a clear understanding of directions and information. Hence, clinicians should keep that in mind when they offer telemedicine services, given that telemedicine is a great opportunity for doctors to expand their network. Based on recent US data, the increasing patients’ demand has led to a double interest of clinicians for offering telemedicine services. More specifically, there is a proportion of patients who had been with their doctor for less than a year and they would switch doctors to get virtual consultation. Thus, telemedicine has benefits for both sides, doctors and patients. Adoption of virtual health could extend the reach of physicians and other health care providers, and make it easier for patients to access the health care system.