It’s hard to believe that there was a time when over half of all doctor encounters happened in a patient’s home. In the 1930s, a house call was standard practice, accounting for 40 percent of doctor-to-patient visits. But the shift toward more institutionalized care closed the door on house calls. By the 1980s, house calls fell by the wayside along with shoulder pads and teased bangs.
Now, modern medicine is reexamining the ideals of the house calls-care-model and recognize that this personal practice may benefit an aging population whose medical needs are pressing today’s healthcare systems.
Many believe this trend toward at-home care is an exciting step in the right direction, and here are four reasons why telemedicine may change the face of future healthcare.
1. Independence for seniors
Technology has been toying with ways to prolong independent living among seniors for many years. For instance, seniors can subscribe to an alert service notifying emergency services when “we’ve fallen and can’t get up.” But innovations in cloud technologies and improved telecommunications capabilities are taking healthcare services out of the office and into a patient’s home (literally). Now, a full consultation can commence, and a patient’s vitals can be monitored without leaving the living room.
2. Patient-centered care
This one-on-one setting allows patients to ask questions, express concerns, or talk about their care plan with no distractions. Also, this arrangement allows for more flexibility or frequency in appointments. “It’s fascinating to see how IT is expanding to help people of all ages and life situations. In this business, providing customized technology is a life-saver to our customers, but to see these innovations save lives, now that’s really something to get excited about,” said Ryan Westwood, CEO of Simplus.
3. Medicare has embraced this technology
Legislative pathways vary with states experiencing different challenges along the way. For example, some states suffered from restrictive delivery systems for Medicaid coverage and reimbursement processes. However, eleven states, including Utah, saw their increased coverage and reimbursement policies improve their grading based on Medicaid telehealth coverage legislation. And that’s good news, as lawmakers move toward expanding and improving this service.
Every state is learning of ways to implement telemedicine care, and with good reason. Over half of all U.S. hospitals are using telemedicine, and 90 percent of healthcare systems are developing and implementing a telemedicine program. Overall, studies show this service delivers efficient health care services while reducing costs.
4. Makes specialized care accessible for everyone
The benefits of telemedicine aren’t limited to the bottom line. In addition to lower costs, modern technology brings care to the people who need it the most. Now, a highly qualified nephrologist in Los Angeles can be referred to a patient in Wisconsin. And, quality care can extend to rural areas, as well.
The National Rural Health Association says the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. By adding a telemedicine service, patients receive needed care, doctors can expand their patient base, and they can effectively compete with larger health care networks without increasing costs.
It seems the face of healthcare is changing to be more personalized, more efficient, and more accessible than ever before. What’s the prognosis for future healthcare services? A healthy dose of innovation with a surprisingly human touch.
This article was originally published by The Daily Herald.