- The global telehealth technology market is expected to have an annual growth rate of 24 percent and be worth $6.5 billion in the next five years. As such, it is pivotal to uncover some of the trends that will impact telehealth technology in the near future.
In order to determine which direction the telemedicine movement is heading over the coming years, mHealthIntelligence.com spoke with Dr. Ralph Rogers, Medical Director of the London Sports Injury Clinic and Certified TeleHealth Coordinator and TeleHealth Programmer.
The spark that started it all
When asked about his telemedicine background and what sparked his interest in telehealth technology, Rogers replied, “My background is using the technology as a physician. When it comes to telemedicine in general, we all use it whether we realize it or not – such as through a video call to radiology or other department.”
“My work with telemedicine started with the University of Alaska where I received two certificates – one as a telemedicine coordinator and the other as a telehealth programmer. The reason behind why I completed these certificates is because it is a good idea from a practical standpoint.”
As telehealth technology advances and becomes part of mainstream culture within the healthcare industry, it only becomes more and more ‘practical’ for physicians to incorporate these tools in their practice.
“I practice medicine in London,” Dr. Rogers continued. “This country’s healthcare field is considered one of the strongest and most concrete around the world. It is the gold standard and many aspire toward British medicine whether it be India, Nigeria, or another country. I have had patients all over the world [because of telemedicine].”
“The reason I became interested in telehealth technology is something that happened three or four years ago. A woman flew out to see me on a private jet for a 15-minute consultation,” he explained. “I thought that was crazy. I thought ‘is there a better way for people to see me?’ I became very interested in the whole idea of telemedicine just from that one incident. That’s how I became interested in using telehealth technology.”
Telemedicine trends and challenges
Dr. Ralph Rogers also went over some of the trends of telemedicine as well as the potential disadvantages of virtual care.
“What’s really interesting about telemedicine is that it’s a double-edged sword,” clarified Rogers. “Some of the most remarkable things include the practice of telemedicine in surgery. I think telemedicine is a great thing if you’re in New York and other fantastic areas that have the best care [and can provide help to other specialists or physicians].”
“Whether providing advice on x-rays, imaging, or helping those who have a patient and don’t know vital details about their condition, telehealth can be a lifesaver. For example, someone from Australia could talk to a specialist in Chicago.”
“Some other benefits of telehealth technology are within administration, records, and billing,” he went on. However, the other side of the double-edged sword is that “by performing medicine using information technology, you almost succeed by eliminating one of the most important aspects of medicine – the physician laying hands on the patient and providing consultation in a face-to-face meeting.”
“It is marvelous what telemedicine can do, as it can help in cardiology, pathology, and psychology among other fields,” Rogers cited the benefits of telehealth technology. “It is also providing quality medical care to people who need remote access.”
“However, medicine is more than just technology. You have to put your hands on a patient or talk face-to-face. In that way, telemedicine can have this downfall because it’s so successful,” concluded Rogers.
Worldwide telehealth regulations
When asked about some pivotal regulations being adopted to advance telehealth use across the globe, Rogers answered, “Let’s say I’m a physician anywhere. The thing about telemedicine is it needs to provide recognition and quality of the physician. One of the big parts of telemedicine use is physician licensing. These are some of the things people are battling with.”
“Doctors need multiple licenses to practice telemedicine in multiple states. There are a lot of barriers in telemedicine,” he continued. “The biggest challenge is ensuring the quality of the physician providing care over the phone or through information technology on the other end of the line. What are their qualifications?”
“Then there’s the problem of building it [a telehealth platform]. How do you build it?” he asked. “Our patients are happy, according to the reports, but I’m not sure. As someone who believes in telemedicine, I’m not sure how far you can push a patient for that type of virtual care.”
The beauty of telemedicine
When asked about the most important advantages of telehealth for the patient community, Rogers explained, “The most beautiful part of telemedicine is being able to provide care to people in remote and rural locations. We can provide quality care in some of the most remote places in the world because of information technology. That’s the beauty of telemedicine.”
“Not only that, but with the cost of healthcare rising and because medicine is so successful, [telehealth could be helpful],” he concluded. “As people are growing older, how are they being monitored? A lot of them can now be monitored at home remotely. People with chronic conditions have to see a physician and complete their consultations, but they can be monitored at home. This is also the beauty of telemedicine.”