Why Telemedicine Could Soon Replace Most Doctor Visits


Home care visits from a doctor are making a comeback, except this time the comeback is digital and the platform of choice is Zoom. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering virtual meetings of all kinds are the new normal.

Long ago, home visits were once the only way to see a doctor. By the 1940s, doctors were still regularly making home visits when a patient was sick. However, in the 1950s home visits began to decline as healthcare systems grew larger and the healthcare model became centered around an office.

Now that healthcare systems have become complex and inconvenient, the home care model is becoming popular once again.

Home visits are making a digital comeback

Today, people are demanding home visits, but they’re leaning toward digital visits on video conferencing platforms. The reason? Convenience.

A study conducted by the Scripps Translational Science Institute found that 70% of patients who chose a house call over a traditional appointment did so for the convenience. However, house visits are only convenient for the patient. On the other hand, telehealth visits are convenient to both patients and doctors.

Are telehealth video appointments secure?

The short answer is maybe. It all depends on the video platform used and whether that platform is HIPAA compliant.

With cybercrime like data breaches and ransomware attacks on the rise, it’s cause for concern when it comes to telehealth visits. After all, patients and doctors are discussing the intimate, private details of a patient’s medical life. If stolen, that information could prove disastrous for a patient.

Healthcare organizations are required to protect patient data according to HIPAA regulations and that applies to video appointments, too. A healthcare provider can’t just start Facetiming with patients on their iPhones. In fact, Facetime is not currently HIPAA compliant and Apple has made no indication that it will be in the future.

Zoom stepped up to the plate and launched a special video conferencing platform specifically designed for healthcare organizations. With HIPAA-compliant digital conferencing solutions, the number of digital ‘house calls’ will surely keep rising.

Digital telehealth visits are convenient and efficient

Who wouldn’t want to dial up their doctor on Zoom without ever leaving the couch? As more healthcare providers embrace this technology, patients are experiencing that level of convenience. For instance, The University of Kansas Health System offers telehealth appointments where patients can connect with their doctor through a Zoom conference.

Through Zoom visits, doctors can assess a patient’s condition, make care recommendations, or request a live visit when necessary. This eliminates a vast majority of inconveniences patients encounter in the healthcare system.

As it stands, some patients have to wait weeks or months just to get an appointment. Some patients have to drive a long distance to see the right doctor, and appointments are often canceled at the last minute, leaving patients frustrated.

Telemedicine is moving from messages to virtual visits

Telemedicine has been around for many years, but it’s mostly been used in the form of an online messaging system. For instance, Kaiser Permanente was one of the first healthcare organizations to launch a messaging platform for patients to communicate with their doctors online.

These messaging systems do support patients, but some doctors get overwhelmed answering messages from patients. Some patients take advantage of the system and ask questions that can be easily answered online or by calling their pharmacist.

Telehealth video appointments make doctors available to their patients, but don’t encourage casual conversations that take too much of a doctor’s time. Patients can still ask follow-up questions, but because they’ll get a quick appointment, they won’t feel the need to bombard their doctor with messages while they wait for a far out appointment.

Doctors can assess patients over video

Some diagnoses need to be made in person, but doctors can help a significant number of patients just over video. For instance, they can ‘prescribe’ simple over-the-counter home health devices like oximeters, thermometers, and blood pressure monitors so patients can check their vitals at home and report the results during a video visit. In non-emergency situations, this will serve many patients well.

Non-invasive devices can also be used to project a video of a patient’s ear canal, nose, and throat for the doctor to see. Of all the tech gadgets people have in their homes, healthcare devices will soon become as common as smart speakers and thermostats.

Telehealth is here to stay

Although the current telehealth comeback is fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is here to stay. Patients and providers want convenience and telehealth perfectly fulfils that need.