A doctor making house calls? Nonsense. That’s what some would say, making references to the bygone era portrayed in the Norman Rockwell painting or to the day of the buggy. But a new report from Tractica suggests that the days of the house call, made possible by new technology, are already on hand for many, and will be for many more soon.
The reports suggest that in 2014, there were 14.3 million people worldwide putting home healthcare technology to work on some level and that by 2020, 78.5 million will have used it on some level. Several new tools, ranging from the ability to remotely monitor patients to improvements in elder care and the ability to consult a physician without having to go to said physician’s office, all help drive the numbers up in a comparatively short time frame.
Other recent reports even suggest that growth is expected to be most prevalent in the fields of diagnosis, monitoring and treatment as well as with general health and wellness.
Whether it’s a quick way to ask a doctor, “does this mole look irregular to you” or to keep an eye on elderly relatives who still want the independence of living alone, there’s likely to be major growth in the works.
Tractica principal analyst Charul Vyas offered up some comment around the news saying, “Key factors driving interest in home healthcare technologies include rising healthcare costs, aging populations, and a rise in the number of people living with chronic diseases. However, significant challenges remain for the industry to solve, including regulatory issues, data security and privacy, and technology interoperability and integration issues.”
Indeed, we’ve already seen quite a bit of growth in the home health market. We’ve seen physician specialties come to underserved areas—psychology is just one of these—and areas that formerly couldn’t get much access to any sort of medical care without long journeys get access. That’s good news, and as bandwidth speeds and capacities hopefully improve worldwide, we’ll only see more of this sort of thing. Technologies like videoconferencing and Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) can really make such technology accessible as well. But it’s worth bearing in mind that, while the numbers are expected to climb over five-fold in just the next five years, we’re still talking about less than one percent of the total global population. Major gains are clearly in the cards, but it’s a long way to go before anything approaching wide use is seen.