Telemedicine proved its worth and beyond during the Covid-19 pandemic. The rise of a largely unknown virus shut down schools, businesses, and doctor surgeries overnight, pushing societies into a mode of digital-first. Governments and healthcare providers had no choice but to scramble together the resources to provide a new, adapted form of healthcare. This largely took the shape of telehealth.
Combined with digital communication, telemedicine technologies help treat patients in any location, no matter how remote or inaccessible. Telemedicine has transformed the role of physicians and increased access to health services for patients worldwide. While the burden of Covid-19 has largely been alleviated, healthcare has undergone a permanent transformation.
The wave of digitalization is sweeping countless industries, and healthcare is no different. The use of connected devices such as smartphones and tablets for real-time patient monitoring and diagnosis is growing rapidly, creating a healthcare system that is bulletproof against future epidemics, natural disasters, and other catastrophic events.
BCC Research conducts extensive research into the future of healthcare, as we know that the endurance of our society is dependent on it.
Investments in telemedicine on the rise
If Covid-19 shone a spotlight on anything, it’s that healthcare must be immediate, accessible, and ideally, preventative. A positive outcome of this period is that investment in funding telemedicine escalated rapidly. In direct response to the pandemic, the US Congress approved $8.3 billion in funding with one of the provisions being on the use of telehealth services for the US Medicare program.
Additionally, in May 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services in the US granted a fund of $16.3 million for the expansion of telehealthcare in the Title X Family Planning Program. This program provides individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services across communities in the country.
Government initiatives in aid of digitalizing healthcare
Thankfully, the case for telemedicine is not particularly hard-won. Governments worldwide are introducing initiatives to develop telehealth technologies and provide more accessible healthcare.
In India, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has put forward numerous initiatives in support of communication technologies to improve public healthcare. These include the introduction of online and mobile applications for services like the National Health Portal, e-Hospital, Online Registration System (ORS), ‘Mera Aspataal’, and more. Various processes have also been automated through an initiative called the National Telemedicine Network (NTN).
In the United States, the push to digitalize healthcare is equally as strong. Video conferencing between patients and care providers, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health (mHealth) have been key developments within the US healthcare landscape.
Increasing healthcare expenditures
Rising populations and the ever-complex healthcare demands this entails are bumping up budgets for healthcare across the globe. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, global expenditures on healthcare are expected to rise from $7.8 trillion in 2017 to $18.3 trillion by 2040.
This alone is the single biggest factor driving the growth of the telemedicine market. With the global marketplace predicted by BCC Research to reach $173.3 billion by 2027, the impact is self-evident. With both private and public institutions in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific investing in developing new technologies for better disease diagnosis and treatment, the market for telemedicine will remain strong.
The need for interoperability
Digitalization is making a global impact, with telemedicine being one instance of this wave. But one of the biggest hurdles in making society digital is the lack of interoperability. In healthcare, electronic health records (EHR) can have different standards, making them incompatible with digital transmission and connectivity.
There are few, if any, standards for health information. In the US, no federal legislation to control the practice of telemedicine exists. The adoption of telemedicine has clearly been hampered by differences in legislative framework in the US. But in order to standardize EHR and boost telemedicine’s penetration throughout the US, the government will need to push for an overarching telemedicine policy.
The role of connectivity and technology
Similarly, connectivity technologies will need a strong infrastructure to ensure healthcare organizations can provide telemedicine. For example, in videoconferencing, doctors need a secure connection to share patient health information and a reliable connection so that the video is clear. Networking technology has improved considerably, and the onset of 5G wireless is expected to further improve telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. Internet protocol (IP) technology, along with the availability of high-speed networks, is making the technology fully operable.
This remains true in well-connected, Western regions. But in rural locations, the situation is trickier. Rural healthcare systems suffer from huge barriers, including severe shortages of healthcare professionals, a lack of necessary medical supplies, plus infrastructure issues like poor access to electricity, clean water, and financial resources. Governments around the world have been working on creating telemedicine infrastructure to help improve the outlook in these regions, but there’s still some way until healthcare is equitable across the world.
Despite these hurdles, the global population is quickly becoming better connected. According to Statista, 87.6% of the population in Malaysia were using smartphones in 2020, up from 65% in 2015. In China, about half of the population was expected by Pew Research to own a smartphone by the end of 2020. The number of mobile device users is continually climbing, creating a better-connected world and fuelling the adoption of telehealthcare.
Discover the future trends in healthcare
Alongside our brand-new report on Global Markets for Telemedicine Technologies, BCC Research has recently published an exclusive Megatrends report. Focusing on the global trends across healthcare, digitalization, and sustainability, the report outlines key insights for the future of these vital areas. Sign up to receive your free copy of our Megatrends report here, or download an overview of our telemedicine technologies report here.
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