Telemedicine: A Tool for Comprehensive Care

What is Telemedicine?

Across the globe, record rates of medical professionals are turning to telemedicine in an effort to help address the disparities in health care access.

Telemedicine connects medical professionals with patients through the use of electronic communication, which allows physicians to provide preventive and continuous care to a broader range of patients while reducing excessive and burdensome costs for both parties.

Bridging Health Care Gaps with Telemedicine

While telemedicine cannot replace the conclusive benefits of an in-person visit, the practice can serve as a powerful supplemental tool for patient-centered healthcare delivery. Often used for follow-up visits, medication adherence, and the management of chronic conditions, telemedicine is growing to become a service that yields better outcomes and improved patient engagement.

Mississippi is widely acknowledged as a leader in telemedicine adoption, in large part due to the medical isolation faced by many of the state’s residents: the majority of Mississippi’s physicians reside in urban areas, while the remaining general population is dispersed among rural areas. Telehealth programs, such as the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), aim to supersede geographic and financial barriers to continuous care.

While Mississippi serves as a glaring example of the disparities in healthcare, the same general issues extend to the status quo: accessing comprehensive healthcare remains a challenge. Obtaining time off work, in addition to travel and childcare costs, often serve as significant obstacles to receiving much-needed medical treatment—let alone preventive and follow-up care visits. Remote medical technology allows physicians to not only practice preventive medicine but also manage chronic conditions for patients who may have otherwise foregone care.

In a recent research report, Nemours Children’s Health System found that its telemedicine program saved patients an average of approximately 85 miles of travel costs, and reduced the hospital’s costs at about $24 per patient. “It really aligns with our strategy to meet patients and families where they are,” says Carey Office, the operational Vice President of Telemedicine for Nemour Children’s in Florida, “It’s cost-saving, and time-saving, for patients and families. Telemedicine is here to stay.”

Natasa Sokolovich, executive director of telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Health Sciences (UPMC), noted that when first starting the program, many physicians were skeptical of incorporating the technology into patient care: “In the beginning, we had providers who were a little tentative, but once they saw the positive outcomes and acceptance by their patients, that helped solidify it for them.”

Many medical professionals have found that telemedicine broadens the potential for holistic care. While patients sometimes view continuous and preventive medicine as costly and nonessential, telemedicine provides an avenue in which health is accessible, less costly, and easily attainable.

To learn more about telemedicine and digital health, visit A4M partner MedTech Impact on Wellness.