This post is a continuation on our series on real-time communications and WebRTC verticals. To see previous posts in this series, please check out our first post.
The healthcare industry is astonishingly large: In the United States alone, it is a $7 trillion industry that’s expected to grow to $8.7 trillion by 2020. Thanks to an aging population, technological improvements, and political uncertainty, it’s also an industry ripe for continued disruption.
Major healthcare players are looking to solutions like telemedicine to supplement patient care by offering healthcare services over the internet. Utilizing electronic health records, telemedicine solutions better connect patients and healthcare providers through appointment scheduling, prescription refilling, and AI-enhanced self-diagnosis tools.
What’s Happening Now
Migrating to telemedicine solutions isn’t just a cost-saving solution — it’s a talent imperative. By 2025, an industry-wide staffing shortage is expected to continue contributing to a dwindling supply of qualified nurses, home health aides, lab technicians, and surgeons to address an aging population. Tools like WebRTC enable real-time HD audio and video communication to take the place of work typically performed by healthcare professionals, allowing patients to directly communicate with doctors, nurses, and physicians to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of medical ailments.
The telemedicine market, currently estimated to be worth $19.3 billion, is expected to continue rapid growth at a rate of 16.76 percent CAGR and reach a value of $48.9 billion by 2021. By 2025, it’s predicted to explode to $113.1 billion. Considering the sheer market size of the $7 trillion healthcare industry, telemedicine is also connected to many other healthcare-related products and services.
Across the wearable technology industry, devices like smartwatches, glucose monitors, and EEG monitors are expected to drive growth and reach an anticipated value of $14.4 billion by 2022. Technology researcher Gartner translates these numbers into hundreds of millions of connected devices, with an estimated 310 million sold in 2017 alone.
What It’s Used For
Healthcare providers are using telemedicine to perform services typically carried out by administrators, nurses, and doctors. Online healthcare enables patients to save time, avoid unnecessary phone calls and appointments, and improve their overall healthcare experience by staying more engaged.
Video Call Center by Compunetix helps route users to the right physician by allowing them to enter their medical symptoms online, bypassing the need to describe a full condition to multiple sets of nurses or assistants. Tokbox, a communications platform built around WebRTC, enables healthcare providers to offer telemedicine and telehealth services using live video and connected health devices to replace doctor visits altogether.
Medical consultations and virtual office visits are carried out in secure video chats, allowing patients to speak directly to healthcare professionals in the privacy of their own home. For behavioral and mental health services, real-time audio and video make it even more convenient for patients to get the health services they need no matter where they are.
Some consumers still harbor concerns around the use of telemedicine, including worries about data privacy and the quality of care. While telemedicine offers improved communications and efficiency, one study found 43 percent of consumers are concerned that the quality of telemedicine care would be worse than visiting an in-person healthcare provider, and 33 percent believe telemedicine is impersonal.
Even though patients are willing to share data with their healthcare provider online, some remain concerned about privacy implications with telemedicine platforms, including the possibility of data being leaked onto the internet. Only 26 percent of consumers are interested in volunteering lifestyle information with their healthcare providers, leaving a potential gap in the amount of data healthcare providers can access.
Where It’s Headed
Healthcare providers aren’t the only ones who see telemedicine as a cornerstone for the industry’s future. Even though just 19 percent of patients have taken advantage of virtual healthcare services, 77 percent of consumers anticipate being able to take advantage of telemedicine services for medication reminders, appointment scheduling and digital doctor appointments. Similar to how rideshare services transformed the transportation industry, telemedicine services will continue to revolutionize the way patients handle their healthcare needs by making healthcare services as easy to access as a taxi.