Telemedicine apps – The need of an hour
Telemedicine is a fairly 21st century concept, and as the Internet has penetrated every corner of the world, it has developed rapidly. Telemedicine refers to the method of providing medical care virtually through video calls via smartphones, laptops, etc. However, some doctors also choose to offer consultations or queries through phone messaging and email. It is a highly dynamic field as more and more telemedicine apps are being developed and launched in the market. Telemedicine apps make easy access to medical care services, including primary care consultations, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and sometimes emergency services. Truly, telemedicine apps are the need of an hour.
Doctors and patients can engage in telemedicine apps for the following
- Make a query or get answers to medical questions.
- Evaluate if the patient needs to be treated in person.
- Issue or renew prescriptions and medications.
- Follow-up on the progress for the undergoing treatment.
- For medical assessment, like minor infections, mental health counselling.
For certain types of therapy like speech therapy etc. The telemedicine industry has progressed significantly from its inception. Hospitals began experimenting with telemedicine to reach and help patients in remote locations, about 50 years ago. With the development in technology in recent decades, telemedicine has transformed into a cohesive service used by hospitals and healthcare facilities. But it was only in the early 20th century that this technology started making its way into a common man’s life.
Benefits of Telemedicine apps
Research shows, telemedicine can be used for a serious medical condition. For instance, a 2017 meta-analysis and systematic study of telemedicine proved that it could be useful for treating chronic heart failure and discovered other benefits. These included shorter hospital stays, lower admission rates, and fewer deaths. The use of telemedicine will have benefits for both healthcare providers and patients.
Benefits for patients
Telemedicine can help treat various medical conditions. It is most successful when a person seeks care from a qualified physician and provides information with clarity about their symptoms.
- Cost Reduction – Studies suggest that people who practice telemedicine spend less time in hospitals, hence saving costs. Also, there is less time to spend commuting, resulting in fewer secondary expenses, like gas, childcare, etc.
- Better access to care – Telemedicine makes it easier for disabled people to access care. It improves access to medical attention for people, including those who are geographically isolated, elderly, and imprisoned.
- Preventive care – Telemedicine allows people to access preventive medical care that improves their overall health. Essentially for people with geographic or financial barriers to receive quality care. For example, in the year 2012, research on people with coronary artery disease showed that preventive telemedicine apps improved health conditions.
- Convenience – Telemedicine gives people a choice to access care from the privacy and comfort of their own homes. This means that an individual does not have to take time off of work or spend on fuel costs or childcare.
- Slowing Infection rate – Visiting, the doctor’s office means automatically being around people who are sick, and in close proximity to you. This can prove to be essentially dangerous for people with a weak immune systems or underlying conditions. Telemedicine removes the risk of catching an infection from the doctor’s clinic.
Benefits for healthcare providers
Healthcare providers who offer telemedicine services will several benefits like:
- Lesser overhead expenses – Healthcare providers with telemedicine services will invite fewer overhead costs. For example, they may not need to pay for front desk support. Also, this will allow them to invest in an office space that is not big in area and infrastructure.
- Added revenue channel – Physicians will find that telemedicine apps increase their income as it allows them to generate an increased number of patients.
- Reduced exposure and chances of Infection – When doctors counsel patients remotely, they do not have the risk of exposing themselves to any pathogens/infections which patients may carry.
- Provide consultation satisfaction – When a patient is no more required to travel to the doctor’s clinic and wait in long queues to receive care, they will be happier and content with the doctors.
Disadvantages of telemedicine
It is also to be noted that telemedicine apps practices may not be for every situation or individual. There are some possible drawbacks to using telemedicine over traditional medical care approaches.
Let’s take a look at some disadvantages for patients and healthcare providers.
Disadvantages for patients
Telemedicine is not a good idea for all patients. Some of the disadvantages of this type of care service include:
- Insurance coverage – Most insurers do not cover telemedicine care. However, these laws are constantly changing and may have alternate options in the future.
- Privacy of medical data – Cybercriminals like hackers maybe get their hands into a patient’s medical data, especially if the patient’s telemedicine counselling information is stored/accessed on a public network through an unsecured or unencrypted channel.
Disadvantages for healthcare providers
Healthcare providers sometimes also face issues while providing medical care through telemedicine apps.
- Licensing status – State laws are different from one to another, and hence, doctors may not have the permissions to practice medicine across state lines. Also, the location of the patient is one factor that comes into play.
- Examine patients physically – Providers must rely on patient’s self-reports during telemedicine sessions. This may require clinicians to ask more questions to ensure that they get a comprehensive health history. If a patient leaves out an important symptom that might have been noticeable during in-person care, it can compromise and hamper the treatment.
The telemedicine app is based on the video call or video chat technology. Telemedicine apps are based on consulting app concept. Video calls services like Skype, Viber Google Hangout are popular and you may have already used them. You can also make video calls through WhatsApp and connect with your doctor. Telemedicine apps help connect doctors with patients and consult with them over a video call. The choice of doctors you will have depends on the telemedicine app you are using and the number of registered physicians. Some telemedicine apps also help patients with daily assistance manage issues like diabetes, cholesterol, and addiction. The apps can also share your prescriptions with chosen pharmacies and help you procure your medication without any hassle. You will also get assistance for getting various tests done from your home’s comfort as your blood samples can be collected from home. Reports will be delivered to you via email, and you do not have to worry about commute to obtain your test reports.
Top Five Telemedicine Apps
As of 2018, Amwell is considered to be the most downloaded telemedicine app available in Google Play and the App Store. It provides 24/7 access to doctors without booking any prior appointments. Prescriptions are given online and also shared with your selected pharmacy. Many insurance plans and employers cover Amwell’s telemedicine services. This telemedicine app has been created by American Well, who also build the technology supporting many small-scale health apps. Amwell can be a good all-around choice for a wide variety of needs like breastfeeding support, urgent care, and even therapy.
Doctor on Demand
Doctor on demand is also among the most used telemedicine app and boasts having one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Doctor on demand is mostly used for medical issues, which are not an emergency. These issues could include allergies, and rashes, common colds and flu, and preventative/ chronic assistance. This app even provides therapy and behavioural health care for issues like anxiety and stress management, relationship issues, trauma recovery. The registration process is easy and simple. Suppose you are new to this kind of technology than this can be a good app, to begin with. This app has gained tremendous positive reviews.
Teladoc is one of the top five telemedicine apps available in the market. It has certified doctors registered in the app, and they can provide you with round-the-access to medical consultation. Doctors registered on Teladoc’s platform come with an average of 20 years of work experience. It also offers round-the-clock access to board-certified doctors via phone, mobile app, or the web any day of the week. It provides medical care like dermatology, therapy, urgent care, and sexual health consultations. This app will also help with addiction- management and help you quit smoking. Teladoc’s most unique feature is the Global Care service. This will facilitate for you to connect with doctors who speak the language you speak and also assist you with navigating local healthcare information if you are traveling.
HealthTap guarantees 24/7 access to doctors. This app uses artificial intelligence and has a huge database of medical case studies and FAQs. If you are worried about any medical issue, you can submit your question in this app and get answers from a huge network of doctors with 147 separate specialties. The AI doctor will let you browse for solutions that fit your situation and analyse past records to suggest the best course of action. This app can also help you set customized health reminders. The basic services are free of cost, and video consultation can be made available if you switch to the premium package. If you are looking for a huge database of reliable information and want to streamline your medical care services, then this app is a good option for you.
The MDLIVE app is another common option that facilitates access to medical care remotely. This app will provide solutions for issues ranging from general illnesses, dermatology to mental health counselling. Psychiatry and cognitive therapies can be accessed with a paid account, paving an easy path for trauma management. MDLIVE has also taken artificial intelligence way to create AI assistance and simplify medical consultations. The app also has features to set reminder alerts for patients to follow their medication routine.
Impact of Covid-19 on Telemedicine Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic is quickening changes in every sphere of our lives. Transformations are already underway in the medical sciences field, and this is spurring new discoveries. It is increasingly growing the scope for technology systems that provide patients with platforms to interact with the healthcare system virtually. A survey conducted by an online Physician community showed that 85% of patients are now willing to consult doctors through video calls/phones. The study also reported that 68% of participants believe that telemedicine apps will change the conventional ways of consultations with medics. Overall, 77% of participants are willing to shift to telemedicine. According to research, the telemedicine app industry is expected to rise to a massive $155 billion industry by 2027. The shift in regular doctor consultation has led to an increased trend of at-home sample collection for testing. This is a step that ensures both convenience and evades the potential risk of exposure to Covid-19. Patients feel that at-home sample collection and report delivery through online channels put them at a lesser chance of contracting the virus. With all the government restrictions and lockdown implemented across cities, telemedicine is the easiest way to get medical check-ups done.
As the pandemic started impacting the healthcare systems across the globe, firms understood that transitioning from traditional methods to bring in direct-to-consumer (DTC) services is the way forward. Recently, measures to allow the testing process in-home have gained momentum, and now test facilities are entering patients’ homes. From booking tests to sample collection, everything has been available at home. The pandemic has forced people to stay indoors, so every service today has to customized to meet the current requirements. Certain tests like diabetes etc. can be done by patients themselves.
Scope of Telemedicine Industry
Due to the pandemic, the telemedicine company Teladoc’s share price hit an all-time record high. This goes to show how this industry is making advancements by leaps and bounds. Teladoc’s app has recently gathered 74,000 reviews since the pandemic began. As people are locked up at home and avoid doctors’ clinics, and pharmacies, and businesses hence, medical services that provide no-contact substitutes are thriving. Platforms that can digitally connect with people are the ones who will rule the markets in the future.
The demand for telemedicine apps will continue to grow as the impacts of Covid-19 are here to change the habits of people, markets, and industries for the long term. Also, going the digital way with medical care will benefit the rural population as a pandemic or not, these communities have a serious lack of access to quality healthcare. Internet connectivity in today’s day and age is far wider and better than it has ever been. This makes it possible for the disabled community and the elderly population, who need frequent medical attention, receive primary medical assistance. The telemedicine app industry will transpire as a monumental technology in the industry, from the Covid-19 pandemic.