Events over the last few years have taught us how quickly several areas of life can change. Among other things came the adaptability to emerging trends, with the medical world being one of them. Digital health and virtual care which were seen as mere tools of convenience turned in a matter of months into an absolute necessity.
As the scope and scale of telehealth scaled heights never visualized before and the healthcare system continued to improve, it was but evident that online healthcare treatments were not just a passing fad, but something that was going to become a part of the global healthcare system and remain in our lives for some time to come.
Once physical contact was eliminated, telemedicine acted as a protection shield for the frontline workers fighting an epidemic. Furthermore, making online appointments saved time and a lot of hassle. Unnecessary visits to a clinic for common health issues, which could otherwise be easily removed by telemedicine, saved a lot in costs.
Online care also became a reality for people staying in far-flung areas where medical institutions and services were inadequate or unavailable. The most admirable advantage was the patient’s choice to select from a range of specialists, rather than from a limited number of medical professionals in the area.
That said, telemedicine does not benefit all and there are bound to be situations when a doctor’s personal visit or care is deemed absolutely necessary. Despite being around for several years, telemedicine is still facing many challenges and roadblocks like:
- Online therapy has to achieve its full potential, local legislation to bring it on parity with traditional medical services should be ensured. For example, while the rates for telemedicine in the US are same as for in-person care, not all states adhere to the rule. As it currently stands, very few online therapy sites even work with insurance.
- Because telemedicine deals with highly sensitive patient data, security will always be a concern. While in the US online mental health platforms have to comply with the HIPAA act, all parties involved in delivering such services should also prove they are HIPAA compliant, which is not always the case.
- Teletherapy may be less intimate than in-person therapy
- Technological issues like WiFi signals or computer or phone breakdowns can compound the course of treatment.
Real telemedicine services vs scams
In April 2019, the FBI reported a multi-million dollar Medicare fraud scam and brought charges against 24 persons who were implicated in an international Medicare fraud ring.
With the sharp increase in telehealth services, the Medicare bust brings up important questions as to how safe telemedicine is? Are their services fraudulent or genuine? How can a consumer know if they are real or not? Here are a few ways to find out whether the telehealth service you have found are fake or real:
- If you are reassured that your health insurance will cover your payments, check with your insurance provider before moving forward.
- In most cases, telehealth services aim to work in tandem with virtual visits, as seeing a doctor is necessary for a first time major diagnosis. If your provider does not insist, dump him.
- A big RED flag is if your online physician is willing to write a prescription without meeting you. A cyber prescription is not only illegal but a sign of fraud.
Available online care treatments
Some of the conditions that can be treated very effectively with online therapy include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorder
- Anger management
- Interpersonal relationship conflicts
Again it is reiterated that though e-therapy is beneficial for a variety of conditions and complex issues, it is not a good option for a condition that requires direct or in-person intervention.
Digital transformations in the healthcare sector
The healthcare industry is entering into an area of digital innovation, as more and more patients wish to seek healthcare on their own schedule. That is not surprising, given that 77% of US citizens own a smartphone, while 97% own a cellphone of some kind, as featured in the Mobile Fact Sheet as of April 2021.
From Pharma giants to startups, everyone is putting their money in virtual therapy and there are numbers to prove it. The global healthcare market is expected to touch $5.1 billion by 2025 as per a report by Grand View Research Inc and $9.5 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 27.2% from 2021 onwards.
Another trend of this digital transformation in healthcare is the collection of data from medical devices like wearable technology. In the past, physical checkups were done around once a year, but in the digital age patients are focussing on their health more frequently. Some of the most common devices which are in vogue are:
- Exercise trackers
- Heart rate sensors
- Sweat meters
In the palm of your hand
The healthcare industry is undergoing a major shift in how information is obtained and then disseminated. The days when all medical information was kept under a lock and key by doctors and patients had to sign on their lives for access to health information are now a thing of the past. Consumers can now access all health records from the palm of their hands.