Covid has impacted healthcare as much as any industry, pushing telemedicine to the forefront of available options after March 2020 when Medicare began allowing greater access.
The market for telemedicine in 2019 was set at around $45 billion by Global Market Insights, and is projected to grow to more than $175 billion by 2026.Due to Covid’s impact, an estimated one billion telemedicine interactions will take place during 2020.
Dr. Carmel B. Dyer sings its praises.She’s one of the top geriatricians in the nation, and is executive director of the Consortium on Aging at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and executive vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
She says it’s been a big boon for patients afraid to get to a doctor’s office in fear of contracting Covid 19, and says they’ve been thanking doctors for making it available while the doctors are thanking the state and federal government for making it possible.
Among the benefits, Dr. Dyer points out that telemedicine allows physicians to make the most efficient use of their time, able to squeeze in a call when an in-office visit would not have been possible. Patients, likewise, are finding it easier to arrange for a virtual meeting when traveling to a doctor might not have been feasible or practicable. Dr. Dyer says the efficiency extends to the quality of conversations she has with patients, as she’s able to put all her focus on the patient without distractions in the office. Among the procedures that best lend themselves to telemedicine, she outlines, are mobility screening, mental status, cognitive or memory changes, review medicines and discuss test results.
Another benefit is the ability to conference other family members into the call, which fosters broader discussions about a patient’s health and greater insight than might come from an in-person visit.
Dr. Dyer says the downside is that it’s much harder to establish rapport with a patient, especially a first-time appointment.Body language is relatively removed from the conversation. And there are some parts of the exam that don’t work on the phone – something as simple as a heart and lung exam with a stethoscope, or an abdominal or pelvic exam.
Dr. Dyer estimates that the practice of integrating telemedicine into patient care can be expected to grow and expand in the future. She says frail patients will have better access to health care. She says often the most valuable benefit of a visit to a doctor’s office is what gets spoken, and telemedicine places a higher premium on the communication of information for both the physician and patient.