Have you ever had symptoms of a medical issue and you knew exactly what was going on? When my eye is gooey, pink, sealed shut and I want to gouge it out from itching…it’s a pretty safe bet I have the dreaded Pink Eye.
Enter telemedicine! Simply put, telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. If you’re not familiar with the tactical steps of a telemedicine doctor visit, click hereto learn more.
Millions of Americans currently have this service and the market for telemedicine is expected to hit $1 billion by 2016 and $6 billion by 2020, according to InMedica, a division of IMS Research.
I believe there are 6 reasons for this mega growth….
1) Because we can
When George Mallory was asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, he said, “Because it’s there.” (we’ll just ignore the fact that he died on the mountain – maybe if he had a Sat phone to call a doctor in 1924, that wouldn’t have happened. Just sayin’.).
While doctors may not have been able to help poor ol’ George, some say up to 70% of medical issues can be handled via phone. So, why is telemedicine exploding? Because it’s there and we can – for 2 main reasons…
1) Do you have a phone? Hey, me too! What a coincidence. Some of us even have video capability so we can show our poison ivy rash to a doctor. Bottom line: we have the technology to make it happen.
2) We all have the same human parts and they tend to break down in the same ways over and over again. This is why 70% of medical issues can be handled over the phone – doctors are smart, so with a few good questions many ailments are somewhat easily diagnosed via phone versus in-person. Thankfully, in our modern world, we also have easily prescribed remedies to help us survive such maladies (unlike Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut who’s rumored to have died of an untreated tooth infection that spread to her brain – YIKES!)
2) Doctor Shortage
Last week during their annual meeting, the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed the use of telemedicine because they believe it will greatly improve access and quality of care. And for good reason…
Did you know there’s a 45 day average wait time for a doctor visit in Boston?! Receptionist: “Oh, you think you have a bladder infection? HHHMMM looks like I can squeeze you into an appointment in about 45 days.” Can you imagine?
If you haven’t personally felt it yet, there’s a doctor shortage a-comin’! According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation will be short more than 90,000 physicians by 2020 and 130,000 physicians by 2025. Here are a few reasons:
**America is aging. In fact, 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day. As a result, they 1) require more care, and 2) will make full use of their hard-earned Medicare coverage.
**America is aging. I know I mentioned that already, but this time because 1 in 3 practicing physicians in the U.S. is over the age of 55 and close to retirement.
**It’s been estimated that the ACA will extend health insurance coverage to 33 million Americans. What does that mean? 33 million people who may not have had insurance and therefore, may not have been accessing healthcare will now be sitting next to you in the waiting room. Well, at least you have someone to visit with while you drink stale coffee and read old People magazines.
3) Time is money
Not only are there wait times to get an appointment, there are wait times once you’re in the actual office. Did you know the average is 21 minutes? With telemedicine, you may wait a little while for a doctor to call you back. But, you’ll do it from the comfort of your own sick bed and you don’t have to worry about fixing your “flu hair.” Consider your child’s second ear infection of the year. Would you rather keep them home and call a doctor or play phone tag with a doctor's office to schedule an appointment, sit in traffic to get there, sit in a waiting room (with other contagious patients) for 21+ minutes, etc.?
4) Money is money
Most Americans are getting hammered on three sides with healthcare cost increases: not only are insurance premiums increasing, out-of-pocket costs and the actual cost of medical care are skyrocketing. It’s good times, isn’t it?
56% of Americans get their health insurance through an employer. While reports say that premiums only increased about 4-5% last year, your employee contribution may look a little (or a lot) higher than that. Let’s also not forget the higher deductible and out-of-pocket max you may have learned about in this year’s enrollment meeting. Ugh! According to Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of US employers, 54% have increased employee portion to reduce or manage their company’s health care costs.
Telemedicine is growing because employers need to control healthcare costs and Americans are looking to save time and money on their healthcare. Why are more employers turning to telemedicine? For many companies, every doctor, ER or urgent care visit that can be handled via a lower-cost telemedicine consult saves money that goes right to the bottom line. It’s great for you as an employee, too.
5) More awareness
I’ve been around the telemedicine gig for 5 years. In the beginning, when I told people about it, they would say, “Can you do that? Isn’t it illegal to get a prescription over the phone? My doctor won’t do it.” Remember Little House on the Prairie and Marcus Welby, M.D.? Those doctors came to your house, for cryin’ out loud! Sometime between way back then and now, doctors stopped doing house calls. Maybe due to time constraints or maybe because insurance companies wouldn’t cover it.
Lately, I’m finding that people are more aware of this option because there’s been quite a bit of media coverage. If you haven’t seen it, click here for a recent story from ABC news on the topic.
6) It’s viral
If you’ve ever had a telehealth visit, you’ll understand how the experience could go viral. It’s like that 1980’s Faberge Organics commercial, “…it was so good, I told two friends about it. And they told two friends. And so on, and so on…”
If you were a friend of Rita’s and heard her tell this story, wouldn’t you want to check it out?
"While on vacation my daughter came down with strep throat symptoms so I went to the local Urgent Care center and paid my $125 fee and was waiting to be seen. My husband called me to see how we were doing and to remind me that we had a freshbenies card with a 24/7 call a doctor service. He had already set up our account with them, so he contacted them and set up a call back. Next, he said to ask for a refund at the Urgent Care Center. Before I left, I got my $125 back. Within 20 minutes I was talking to a doctor who prescribed a medication and called it in to the local pharmacy - ALL WHILE SITTING IN MY CAR! We were able to go to the local pharmacy and get the prescription that cost less than $12!”
Now, it’s your turn! Have you had a telemedicine consult? If yes, how was your experience? If not, are you willing to try it? Comment below and feel free to ask a question, too!