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New Study Shows Big Interest in Telemedicine Solutions

February 02, 2015

Telemedicine, in recent months, has been shown to gain significant ground with medical providers, and with good reason. Not only does it open up new markets for medical practitioners, it also opens up new services that formerly weren't available to users before. A new study from Software Advice, meanwhile, suggests that there's a lot more demand for telemedicine solutions out there than some might have expected, even when there's an in-person alternative available.

The Software Advice study took responses from 519 individuals, including 138 telemedicine users and 381 non-users, and discovered that, for those who haven't used telemedicine before, fully three out of four are interested in using the service even if there's a doctor physically available. While 73 percent of the total sample had never actually used telemedicine before, 18 percent had within the last 12 months. Six percent, meanwhile, used telemedicine before but not within 12 months.

Interestingly, both groups—those who have and haven't used telemedicine before—overwhelmingly prefer the thought of seeking out online care over going to the emergency room (ER) when it comes to minor issues. The report suggests that 71 percent of patients either “strongly prefer” or “somewhat prefer” such an option, and that makes it clear that getting more telemedicine in the system would go a very long way indeed toward taking some of the burden off the already-strained ER system. Given that an average telemedical visit runs between $40 and $50, while the average ER call runs around $2,168 according to the National Institute of Health, there's a clear cost savings to be had by bringing in telemedicine.

Even better, telemedicine actually has been shown to increase satisfaction among those who use it; 67 percent say that it either “somewhat increases” or “significantly increases” such satisfaction, and only 10 percent say it “decreases” satisfaction. The remaining 23 percent, meanwhile, claim no impact either way. Even the problems experienced are somewhat small; 21 percent found the visit to be “less personal” or even “colder” than an in-person visit, while eight percent had a hard time placing a video call and six percent found it difficult to read body language.

Thus it becomes clear that telemedicine has a lot of room to grow in the field, and as one of the biggest parts of telemedicine grows, so too will the likely usage numbers. That part, of course, is Web-based real time communications (WebRTC), a technology that allows contact to be as simple as a webcam, speakers, and a Web browser. With WebRTC, users will be able to click a link in an email, or on a website, to be instantly connected with a person from whom the email originated or the website connects to. That's likely going to make it a lot easier to make the necessary connections, which will address that eight percent mentioned previously. It may not prove much help for the people who find telemedicine “cold”, but it may even help the body language folks as video quality improves.

There is certainly a lot of great potential in telemedicine; it's been used successfully in psychology and maternity as well, helping to get specialist care where specialist care previously was unavailable due to issues of geography and population density. Only time will tell, of course, just how far it can go overall, but based on the cost savings and user satisfaction numbers, this isn't likely to drop off any time soon.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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