By the end of this year, more than two-thirds of all health care facilities reported that they will either be using “telemedicine,” or that they are going to be offering it to their patients in a few years’ time. Telemedicine, or the online consultation with a health care professional, often in lieu of traditional office exams, is being used in fields from dermatology to mental health.
In rural areas and areas with extreme weather, many patients are now able talk with their doctors online. For patients with phobias that prevent travel, being able to consult with a medical professional can be a life-saving opportunity. Almost three-quarters of all patients surveyed reported that online consultation with a doctor is an acceptable option for medical treatment.
For teenagers with acne, teledermatology can minimize their embarrassment at being seen by a doctor. Pictures can be taken of their acne or scarring, and can be sent via computer for evaluation and diagnosis. Acne affects more than 40 million people in America, and for some teens, dermatologist reviews are best conducted remotely.
Dermatologist and skin cancer specialists can also benefit from telemedicine by being able to take pictures of lesions or other skin conditions and from then being able to share those pictures with colleagues all around the world. The ability to get consultative and diagnostic advice from an international group of doctors can only benefit patients, experts report.
Citing lower costs and higher comfort levels, the number of patients making use of teledermatology is expected to grow to over 7 million in the next three years. With the majority of patients reporting positive outcomes, the use of telemedicine should continue to expand in the next few decades. Doctors rarely make house calls anymore, but meeting with patients via the internet may become the next best thing.
The future of telemedicine looks promising. Patients with mobility issues, people who live in rural areas, and people whose medical needs may require that doctors confer on the best course of treatment should all benefit from health care facilities that are willing to embrace digital alternatives to traditional doctor’s visits.