With technology gaining more ground in medicine, it is important that we understand where we have been without it in order to truly appreciate where we are now.
That’s why this article aims to discuss the impact that telehealth and telemedicine have had on health care so far so that we can also draw up a picture of where remote care is headed in the future.
What Is Telehealth In Healthcare?
The American Academy of Family Physicians defines telehealth as “electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at-a-distance.”
They also define telemedicine as “the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care to a patient at a distant site.”
Simply put, telehealth is the umbrella term for all forms of remote care services both clinical and non-clinical while telemedicine just consists of clinical services.
Impacts of Telemedicine on Patients and Providers.
The main impact of telehealth in the health sector has been in the areas of expansion of healthcare access, reduction of costs, and enhancement of patient outcomes.
- Reduction Of Health Care Costs.
This has been achieved by cutting down visits to the hospital, especially the emergency department for non-urgent cases. Emergency care is expensive and research has shown that about two-thirds of these visits are actually for non-urgent cases and are thus avoidable. Instead, patients can save money by using telehealth from their homes. Providers like hospitals can also cut down on costs of treatment when more people opt for remote care or home hospital services with remote patient monitoring (RPM) instead of hospital visits.
Before telehealth, the reach of medical care was considerably poor, especially in rural areas and areas cut off by geographical challenges. Death rates from negligible causes were high and there was a shortage of healthcare workers in those areas.
However now, various access barriers have been broken with the invention of remote care through factors like:
People no longer have to travel to see a doctor physically thus eliminating the variable of transportation. They can now see a doctor whenever and wherever they are with just a smart device.
Remote care has encouraged a continuous patient-provider relationship. This means that regardless of location, a medical care provider can continually monitor and evaluate a patient’s real-time vitals and administer treatment accordingly. This was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions were placed on movement. People living with chronic diseases that required constant medical attention were able to receive the care they needed.
•Encouraging specialty care.
There’s a general scarcity of specialist physicians. More and more medical facilities lack on-site medical specialist services each year. However, telehealth has improved the situation by allowing one specialist to see multiple patients even from a distance, thus deepening the reach of quality healthcare services.
- Improving Medical Care Outcomes.
Telehealth is majorly just as effective as in-person visits. For certain patient groups, it even improves the treatment outcomes. Groups like emergency patients, ICU patients, and patients with chronic diseases generally have better outcomes with health technologies. This is because it improves communication, collaboration, productivity, response, and speed among the care workers over these patients.
Impact of Telemedicine During COVID-19 Pandemic.
In December 2019, the coronavirus virus broke out in the city of Wuhan, China and the World Health Organization announced it as a pandemic on 11th March 2020. Spreading to more than 100 countries, governments all over the world began to enforce safety measures to control the spread. Partial or total lockdowns were decreed to limit movement. As a result, taking trips to the doctor’s office wasn’t so easy anymore. That’s where telemedicine came in.
The COVID pandemic saw a huge boom in telehealth, changing the face of medical care forever. The hospitals were filled with those infected with the coronavirus and priority was given to them. So other people had limited access to healthcare systems like hospitals and clinics. Many countries began to use telemedicine to provide patients with care so as not to endanger them by risking bringing them in contact with the infected.
A Center for Disease Control (CDC) report revealed that:
•Telehealth visits in the last week of March 2020 increased by 154% compared with the same period in 2019.
•Visits during the first quarter of 2020 rose by 50% year-over-year. Most visits were unrelated to COVID-19.
Consultations were made virtually and patients were monitored remotely. Telehealth proved useful in making sure patients still had access to quality health services while still efficiently controlling the virus spread by preventing exposure. It maintained continuity and cost-effectiveness in care as well as prioritized patient and provider safety which was just what the world needed at the time.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summarizes its impact by saying it helped:
•Reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19.
•Preserve personal protective equipment (PPE).
•Minimize the patient demand on health care facilities.
Since then, the use of telehealth has considerably increased globally.
How Will Telemedicine Impact The Future Of Healthcare?
Right now in the world, there are still differences in the level of awareness of the importance of telemedicine across geographic locations. Other factors like variation in infrastructural quality, the difference in levels of telehealth education in healthcare professionals, and lack of funding still hinder the impact of remote care in the global health sector.
However, we can be sure that years from now, as more countries grow in development, telehealth will be at the forefront of care services in the world, deepening the reach of medical services and cutting down mortality rates.
According to the “Telemedicine Market – Forecasts from 2016 to 2021” report by Research and Markets, the global telemedicine market was estimated to be worth US$19.336 billion as of August 2016. The global telemedicine market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.76% over the forecast period and reached US$48.985 billion by 2021.
There’s still so much uncovered ground but more and more medical providers are turning to remote care and its market is rapidly expanding. Telemedicine is definitely the future of medical care.
Ogboi Miracle Nwachukwu.
“Telemedicine Market – Forecasts from 2016 to 2021.” Accessed on 16th September, 2022 from
“Top 3 Ways Telehealth is Impacting Health Care.” – Texas Woman’s University. Accessed on 16th September, 2022 from
“What’s The Difference Between Telemedicine And Telehealth?” – American Academy of Family Physicians. Accessed on September 16th, 2022 from
“Trends In The Use Of Telehealth During The Emergence Of COVID-19 Pandemic- United States January-March 2020” – Center For Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Accessed on 16th September, 2022 from