Not too long ago, the thought of actually seeing the person you are talking to over the phone seemed extraordinary. Now, doctors are seeing patients via telemedicine and it’s certainly changing the way people are managing their health care.
The thought of telemedicine seems like a futuristic concept for many but the first recorded telemedicine project was conceived and sponsored by NASA in the early 1970s. The STARPAHC Project was a government funded project conducted on the Papago Reservation (now called the Tohono Reservation ) from 1973-1977. The concept was to provide health care to remote populations via telemedicine.
While the project overall was deemed unsuccessful by many government officials, supporters of the project say, “This collection will be of great value to scholars interested in the historical roots of ‘e-health care’, its early successes and failures…”
In a broad sense, telemedicine uses electronic forms of communication to exchange medical information. In simple terms, it allows you to see a doctor without having to physically go to the doctor’s office.
The telemedicine industry is on pace to attract seven million patient users by 2018 as the health care industry tries to find more effective means to help patients.
“Telemedicine is finally living up to its potential,” a recent Wall Street Journal article proclaimed. Doctors are communicating with patients via smartphone, email and webcams and they are also consulting with each other electronically in an effort to give patients the best and most convenient medical care.
One popular and convenient method of accessing telemedicine services is through a smartphone or tablet app like that offered by Akos. With it, a patient can consult with a board-certified physician anytime and from almost any location.
To understand why patients and doctors are eagerly embracing telemedicine, one needs only to consider the many advantages telemedicine offers.
Here are a few:
Anyone with a job understands there are times when missing time from work isn’t a viable option. Whether you are trying to meet the deadline for an important project or simply can’t afford to lose a half days pay, telemedicine allows you the option to consult with a doctor from your office, a break room or even on a job site.
Even when you aren’t working, there are times when it simply isn’t convenient to spend time in a doctor’s waiting room. Maybe you can’t get a babysitter. Perhaps you are out of town or maybe you just feel too sick to drive. Telemedicine helps bridge that gap between the doctor’s office and your location by giving you access to a diagnosis and treatment wherever you might be.
The U.S. spends more than $2.9 trillion on health care every year — more than any other developed nation. In many cases, these costs are avoidable, such as when patients seek out urgent care providers for nonemergent issues. According to the American Medical Association, 70 percent of clinical encounters can be successfully done through telemedicine without an in-person visit.
Telemedicine apps reduce health care costs by lowering the overall expense of communicating with a doctor about your health care needs. For example, Akos offers a plan where a family or individual can pay a flat fee of $15 per month and a reduced rate of $30 per consultation for unlimited access to Akos physicians all year long. Or, if you prefer, you pay just $49 to consult with a board-certified physician, who will discuss your symptoms, provide an informed diagnosis, offer treatment options and even prescribe medication when needed.
In traditional medical situations, patients have little control. You go to the doctor’s office at a time that might not be convenient. You pay whatever the doctor’s office or your insurance company tells you to pay. In many cases, you don’t even have a say in the doctor who will see you. In contrast, telemedicine allows you to control the process.
Obviously, there are still many instances where patients need to see a doctor in person. For example, telemedicine should not be used in place of a traditional emergency room visit when someone has a critical or urgent medical need. Telemedicine is not meant to be a replacement for traditional medicine. For many physicians, telemedicine bridges the gap between affordable medical treatment, hectic overbooked schedules and quality health care.
Dr. Kishlay Anand is a board-certified cardiologist and electrophysiologist who used his extensive medical and entrepreneurial experience to help found Akos. He is chairman of InstantMed Health Center, an innovative model with Urgent Care and Primary Care Centers in Phoenix, Arizona, providing lab, radiology, and diagnostics all in one convenient location.
Dr. Anand serves as President of ArizonaCardiovascular Institute and as a board member of Cardiovascular Consultants.Through his work as a well-published physician, administrator and community leader, Dr. Anand remains committed to improving processes in his field.