In 2015, more than 15 million Americans partook of some form of telemedicine. Projected growth of around 30% per year is cause for optimism among proponents of telemedicine.
There are pockets of medical care into which telemedicine hasn’t reached. Nearly 40% of consumers still don’t know about telemedicine, and approximately the same percentage of people say they prefer to visit their doctor in person. Only around 15% of doctors use telemedicine as part of their practice, but the vast majority would be amenable to it if they were certain of being reimbursed appropriately.
More insurers cover telemedicine than ever before, and many employers offer telemedicine as a benefit, either as a part of the health insurance they offer, or independently. The benefits of telemedicine are important ones: time savings, cost savings, less-crowded waiting rooms, and lower work absenteeism. So why isn’t everyone using telemedicine? There are several easily-addressable reasons.
Step One Is Awareness
Many people don’t know that they have access to telemedicine benefits. Perhaps it only merited a quick mention in an employer’s healthcare benefits presentation. And the phenomenon of employees literally “not getting the memo” still occurs. Employees may know that they have telemedicine benefits, but aren’t sure if their employer actively supports it or not. Companies that want to enjoy the cost and time savings associated with telemedicine must ensure that employees know about the option and that they know the company supports usage of it. Most people need a bit of a nudge to try new things, and employers can provide this if they try.
Some People Don’t Know How to Use Telemedicine
To some people, telemedicine sounds too technologically advanced, or they’re not used to making Skype calls, and so they worry that technology could stand in the way of their usage of telemedicine services.
Again, it is important for insurers and employers to inform people not only that the option exists, but also that it’s simple to use. Companies that are just starting to offer telemedicine should strongly consider having a brief training session to demonstrate how easy using the service can be. And they must make clear that users’ privacy and security are protected at every step of a telemedicine visit.
Skepticism Toward Telemedicine Effectiveness Remains
What about the people who prefer in-person doctor visits? There’s no question that telemedicine isn’t appropriate for every health issue, but many people don’t know that outcomes from telemedicine visits are equal to or better than outcomes for in-person care. Studies consistently show that this is the case. In particular, telemedicine has been shown to be useful for the following:
- Remote monitoring of chronic health conditions
- Urinary tract infections
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Sinus problems
Often, One Telemedicine Visit Is Enough to Convince People
Telemedicine represents something entirely new to most people, including those who are comfortable using video conferencing and video calls in other areas of life. People may be reluctant to try telemedicine the first time, but once they get over this initial psychological barrier, they’re likely to see the benefits of it personally and be more inclined to use it next time.Remember when the iPad first came out in 2010? There were definitely “early adopter” enthusiasts, but there were plenty of people who said iPads were unnecessary, and who wondered why they should buy something that was essentially a giant smartphone. Then they tried it and realized that it had some amazing uses.
Telemedicine is like any other new technology. Eventually a tipping point will be reached, and it will become a routine part of people’s medical care. But employers and insurers must do their part to raise awareness of telemedicine availability and to promote the benefits it offers employees or policyholders. To learn more about telemedicine or other health topics that are relevant to your life, AccessRx.com invites you to browse through our blog content.