In 2013, nearly 900,000 American households used video conferencing technology to facilitate a consultation with a healthcare professional. According to a report from Parks Associates, that number will jump to 22.6 million in 2018.
“All types of healthcare providers, from hospitals to physicians, need to embrace virtual care to ensure its success,” said Harry Wang, director, digital health research, Parks Associates. “Next-generation cloud-based technologies will enable providers to tailor remote care programs to specific populations so they can cost-effectively move patients from an acute-care setting to self-managed behavior.” The 900,000 number represents 28% of Americans with broadband internet. Of those who did not communicate virtually with a healthcare professional, nearly half (51%) are open to the idea, citing time-saving as the main incentive. The other 49% are not open to the idea and do not plan on having a virtual consultation. The data also shows that 68% of broadband households prefer face to face consultations. This isn’t terribly surprising, but for some Americans, video consultations may be the only option.
The United States is facing a physician shortage, particularly in primary care, making it difficult for some patients to get appointments with physicians in their area. Although video conferencing may not be the preferred method for meeting with a healthcare professional, that doesn’t mean it is an inferior option. Studies have shown that care provided via video conferencing technology is comparable to care provided in person. As broadband internet becomes available to more households, especially to those living in rural and underserved areas, and more Americans become comfortable with video conferencing technology the number of patients connecting to providers via telehealth will continue to grow. Parks Associates also predicts other forms of telehealth technology, such as fitness and activity tracking, and networked medical devices will also become more widely used in the next four years.