Telemedicine has become a growth industry worth tens of billions of dollars. By 2025 the market for virtual doctors is expected to exceed $130 billion, reports the Association of Mature American Citizens, AMAC.
Researchers at Global Market Insights say telehealth is “transforming the healthcare industry, and in the next few years, it is expected to become the most accepted and used method of diagnosis and prescription.”
The first use of remote medicine technology took place more than 50 years ago between hospitals using closed-circuit television links. Today, patients can visit with medical professionals by using their smartphones via the more than 275 companies such as Dr. Phil’s Doctor On Demand service. They enable access to so-called teledoctors.
The numbers of remote doctor-patient visits have been increasing at extraordinarily high rates over the past several years. A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA]) study, for example, showed that between 2015 and 2017 phone-based virtual doctor visits increased by some 262 percent annually.
While there is no substitute for in-person doctor visits, telehealth services can be particularly attractive for the growing population of senior citizens with non-urgent symptoms such as sore throats and earaches.
An analysis published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concludes that “the global population of elderly people is increasing at a remarkable rate, which may be expected to continue for some time. Older patients require more care, and with the current model of care delivery, the costs may be expected to rise, although higher cost is unsustainable. For this reason, a new pattern of practice is needed. Telemedicine will be presented as a highly effective and necessary tool in geriatrics.”
However, there is a “dark side” to the evolution of telemedicine. The technology has already enabled fraudsters to take their pound of flesh using telemedicine scams. Last spring, the FBI busted an international ring allegedly responsible for one of the biggest Medicare scams in U.S. history. The ring of 24 individuals, including three medical professionals, conned Medicare out of more than a billion dollars using fake telehealth scams.
It is definitely a good new way to access healthcare in the age of technology. But be careful how you use it. If you see a potential benefit to connecting with a telehealth Internet site, take precautions. Check the site’s credentials and reviews. Be aware that legitimate teledoctors tend to work in concert with your personal physicians. So, consider it a red flag if the Web doctor tells you that’s not necessary. And, it is a sure sign that the site is not legit if the online doctor offers to write a prescription. Real physicians do not write scripts without physically meeting a patient.
Dan Weber is President of The Association of Mature American Citizens (https://www.amac.us), a senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. They act and speak on members’ behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today.