If you spend any time paying attention to the healthcare field, then you know that telemedicine is one new development that’s expected to revolutionize how patients and doctors interact in the coming years. But what you may not know is that the potential of telemedicine is directly tied to advancements in certain areas of technology.
What is Telemedicine?
As the name suggests, telemedicine is simply an area of healthcare that focuses on providing remote, location-independent care for patients. Typically, telemedicine interactions take place over the phone, via email, through video platforms like Skype, or through specialized telemedicine platforms that combine various multimedia elements.
Because things are evolving so quickly, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact size of the telemedicine industry. However, by some estimates the number of patients using telemedicine is expected to increase to more than 7 million by as early as next year (up from 350,000 in 2013)
While the field has definitely been revolutionized over the past few years, the concept of telemedicine isn’t new by any means. Doctors have been helping patients for decades through the assistance of remote communication tools like the telephone. But for the first time ever, telemedicine is widespread and convenient – thanks in large part to regulatory changes and developments in internet-based technology.
“Telemedicine was originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, far away from local health facilities or in areas of with shortages of medical professionals,” eVisit.com explains. “While telemedicine is still used today to address these problems, it’s increasingly becoming a tool for convenient medical care. Today’s connected patient wants to waste less time in the waiting room at the doctor, and get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they need it.”
And while the idea of telemedicine is great, execution is at the heart of the industry. Not only does telemedicine face great societal barriers – some people aren’t excited about the idea of virtually interacting with their doctors – but its potential is ultimately limited by the advancement of technology.
The good news, as things currently stand, is that innovation is occurring at an astounding pace. Billions of dollars are being poured into the research and development side of telemedicine and there’s unlimited potential within the next decade.
The Technological Side of Telemedicine
What does the technological side of the telemedicine industry look like? Where do things currently stand, and where are we headed? Let’s check out some of the developments in this area to provide a better outlook on the state of the market.
1. Security is a Major Focus
One of the key focal points of the telemedicine industry is security. Between the rise of cyber security attacks and HIPAA regulations, this is the most important part of the equation moving forward. If security can be improved, then monumental growth should follow.
Thankfully, there’s a lot going on in the telemedicine niche. Take XMedius, for example. Widely known for its advanced fax solutions, this tech company has developed XMediusSENDSECURE, which many medical professionals and institutions are relying on to securely send messages, medical records, and files to patients, insurance companies, and other healthcare partners. The ability to send this information through a secure platform has allowed for more convenient services and opens up the door for even more advanced telemedicine developments in the months to come.
2. Better Care Coordination is Needed
One place where technology needs to improve is in the area of care coordination. “Many patients do not inform their primary care providers when they consult standalone, online services,” Stanford University MD student Akhilesh Pathipati mentions. “As a result, their primary doctor does not have a complete record of their medical issues and medication regimen, both of which have important implications for future decisions.”
There needs to be a system through which a patient’s primary care doctor is alerted when they see a standalone medical service provider. This sort of functionality is in the works and would help a great deal.
3. Remote Working and BYOD
Everyone thinks about telemedicine from the side of the patient, but it’s equally important to consider this issue from the perspective of healthcare providers – specifically doctors and nurses. Telemedicine, for the first time ever, affords remote working opportunities.
When it comes to remote working, the biggest issue is device security within the context of BYOD policies. In addition to security, there’s the issue of sending and receiving high-resolution imagery (such as MRI or x-ray images) in a manner that doesn’t distort the image.
The good news is that there are promising advancements in this area. Kenneth Masters, the oncology information system manager at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Cancer and Haematoogy Network, was one of the first to start using the Citrix XenApp platform and he believes it has the potential to revolutionize this aspect of telemedicine.
“By leveraging the Citrix XenApp platforms high powered graphics cards, we can deliver a robust and secure platform capable of supporting our wider BYOD program for all our employees – particularly doctors,” Masters says.
Forecasting the Future
“There’s a lot to be optimistic about in the future of telemedicine,” eVisit.com believes. “With rapid advances in technology, it’s likely that telemedicine will only become easier and more widely accepted in the coming years.”
While we’re far from a perfect system at this point, it’s clear that big issues related to security and file sharing are being addressed. Once these aspects are strengthened a bit more, you can expect to see adoption rates – among both providers and patients – skyrocket.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.