Currently, the United States is experiencing a growing physician shortage. But, is telemedicine affecting the physician shortage? Due to the recent pandemic, COVID-19, the United States’ medical resources and staff have exceeded maximum capacity. Many of the physicians responding to patients with the virus are overworked. These physicians sometimes end up contracting the virus themselves. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians expressed dissatisfaction in their jobs and experienced high rates of burnout. They experienced mental health issues caused by their role stressors. Covid-19 has put yet another strain on the physician shortage in the United States. Additionally, the U.S.’s general patient population is aging rapidly. A recent study has predicted that the number of patients over 65 will double by 2040. The healthcare industry will only have around 120,000 physicians by 2030.
Telemedicine Offers Better Continuity of Care
Since fewer primary care physicians (PCPs) are available, many patients rely on emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even retail clinics to get medical attention. These institutions often have highly inflated costs with longer wait times. Additionally, since many Americans are now relying on these facilities, they may no longer benefit from having only one healthcare provider. Multiple physicians offering their medical expertise as patients move from one medical gateway to the next might prove to be more strenuous for the patient. Telemedicine offers an opportunity for better continuity of care.
Increasing Preventative Care
Since patients have limited access to PCPs, they are most likely not getting the appropriate preventative care. In some severe cases, the patient’s chances of survival is decreased. Simultaneously, the overall cost increases, the patient’s diagnosis delayed, and the medical team used other medical means to obtain a diagnosis. On the other side, many physicians are faced with long hours and an overburden of patients to provide care to, thereby decreasing the quality of care some patients may receive. For these reasons, telehealth has gained much more attention in recent years.
Telemedicine provides an innovative way of supplying medical care as demand increases. As the Baby Boomer population ages, healthcare costs rise, and shortages of primary care physicians and doctors continue to shadow the healthcare industry, telemedicine offers a viable solution to cope with unprecedented medical demand.
Adaptable Efficient Technology
Telemedicine technology allows doctors and PCPs to provide medical care to patients via video conference and make diagnoses with high-res images. There are many EHR software programs available such as evisit. This technology can significantly reduce the burden many PCPs currently feel due to the high quantity of patients they must attend. Telemedicine is a new way that doctors and PCPs can connect to their patients and provide them the quality service they deserve from anywhere, anytime. Additionally, this different care model has become incredibly important to Americans as they have high expectations for products and services to be highly accessible to them. Healthcare in America has always been a lengthy process, with long wait times and an even longer commute for some patients. Telemedicine is a highly efficient way to connect available doctors and physicians to patients immediately.
Telemedicine is Affecting the Physician Shortage by Reducing Primary Care Shortages in Rural Areas
The PCP shortage tends to be more severe in rural areas. Telemedicine affects the physician shortage by providing patients in these areas with quick consultations with a physician. With improved access to preventative care, patients can better manage their conditions without having to end up in the emergency room or other urgent care facilities. Telemedicine services can help expand patients’ access to care without overburdening the primary care providers.
With telemedicine, physicians can use remote patient monitoring (RPM) to track their patients’ symptoms and diagnoses without having them come in for an appointment. Because it is a virtual care model, some apps require the user to hold a phone camera against their mouth for throat imaging. This technique requires both the patient and physician to be engaged with technology to work efficiently, but it is quick, smart, and functional when it does. This technology can also help reduce administrative costs while assisting PCPs to perform their jobs more efficiently.
Telemedicine Increases Physicians Capacity to See Patients
Telemedicine allows primary care physicians to increase their capacity to meet patient demand without compromising their quality of care. This technology decreases the wait time for patients. Furthermore, it helps doctors avoid commuting by making appointments available to physicians and patients within their homes’ comfort.
Other industries have already leveraged technology to make their products and services more accessible. Now, the healthcare sector has that same opportunity. Telehealth allows healthcare providers to expand capacity with low-cost technology and apps that take little to no experience to operate. Additionally, it allows for virtual appointments, which increases patient volume. Less time spent on in-person visits increases physicians’ efficiency, who can quickly move on to the next patient. Telemedicine also enhances physician/patient interactions by increasing contact via low-cost remote monitoring tools.
Telemedicine can help lower healthcare costs and improve access to patients in rural areas, senior citizens, and veterans. The physician shortage continues to burden the healthcare industry. However, telemedicine technology provides one solution to circumvent this problem in the future.
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