At first glance, one might think that telemedicine wouldn’t be the best medium for diagnosing and treating patients with infectious diseases (IDs). There is, after all, nothing to “listen to” in conditions of sepsis, infected wounds from diabetes or other ailments, meningitis, osteomyelitis, methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) or other infections—nothing a stethoscope on a videoconferencing cart can pick up from the sound of a patient’s heartbeat or stomach. But look again.
Telemedicine is growing—around the world and here at home. A report released last year projected the global telehealth market would grow at a 13-percent compound annual growth rate, reaching $19.5 billion by 2025. That’s more than triple the $6 billion market value in 2016.
I’ve written frequently in previous blog posts about our physicians’ “webside manner”—their skills in communicating with patients, families and hospital clinical staff. They are very good at making everyone comfortable with the telemedicine environment. But they don’t go it alone. They are partners with hospital clinical staff who serve as their hands when consulting with, diagnosing, and treating patients.
We’ve written frequently about the growing acceptance of telemedicine by hospital clinical staff, patients and their families. Still, we do encounter naysayers along the way.
It was abundantly clear in 2018 that there is a new reality in U.S. inpatient care. As I wrote in my year-end blog last month, most hospitals across the country have embraced the value equation telemedicine offers. No longer viewed as a novelty, telemedicine will continue to gain ground in hospitals in 2019—both in general hospitalist services and in a wider range of specialty offerings.
Over the past 10 years, Eagle Telemedicine has seen dramatic change in the way the healthcare industry and the public accept what we do. Once viewed as something out of a sci-fi movie, the concept of telemedicine is as familiar to most people today as a Skype or Facetime call with a friend or loved one.
Solid technology is the foundation of any successful telemedicine program, but there is another vital factor, of course: physicians. At Eagle, we hear a lot of praise for the ones who are part of our team, for their ability to make a personal connection with patients, families, and staff―no matter how great the geographical distance between them. That connection doesn’t happen by accident.
Telemedicine is a rewarding field to be in for many reasons. We make healthcare easier to access for patients and their families. We’re saving doctors from burnout. We help hospitals find a sustainable solution to complex challenges. It’s extremely gratifying to be part of an industry that does so much good. Take, for example, the recent upsurge in the number of rural county hospital leaders who raise legitimate concerns about patient transfers and don’t know how to stop the outflow, or “outmigration” as we’ve heard it referred to.
Telemedicine’s value to hospitals is demonstrated every day. In Emergency Departments (EDs), where stroke patients get the timely treatment they need in their local community hospitals without having to be transferred to a distant referral hospital. On the floor, where rounding stays on a timely schedule. In the boardroom, where examples of patient and staff satisfaction, as well as bottom-line benefits, are frequently heard. The ICU is another area where telemedicine is significantly changing how healthcare is delivered―for the better.
With our history of providing telemedicine services to hospitals for nearly a decade, it’s interesting to see the change in the industry, the growing acceptance of telemedicine by patients, providers and—slowly but surely—payers. It’s also interesting to observe the changes in how we talk about what we do. Ten years ago, we spent much of our time talking with hospital executives about why they needed us. Today, it’s more a question of when.