What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine may be defined as a medical service, which involves the provision of healthcare via electronic communication to improve a patient’s health status. Applications of this service date back four decades. However, the potential clinical applications have surfaced recently, with healthcare reform emphasis on efficient, cost-effective, value-based care. The use of telemedicine is spreading rapidly and is now starting to be integrated into healthcare systems, hospitals, long term facilities, home health care, private physician offices, as well as consumers’ home and workplace.

Why Telemedicine?

Long waiting times and the tremendous difficulty experienced by health systems, in recruiting neurologists, are reflective of the growing shortage of neurologists.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges Center for Workforce Studies, there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,000 specialists over the next decade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will increase by 36 percent in the next decade. The stage is set for a drastic shortage of specialists, as one-third of all physicians are deemed likely to retire over the next ten years. According to the American Academy of Neurology, the number of practicing neurologists will grow from 16,366 in 2012 to no more than 18,000 by 2025. However, the demand for neurologists is much higher and approximated at 21,000. This 3,000- doctor disparity will likely have a significant impact on the healthcare industry.

The problem will likely be compounded by the drastic reimbursement cuts already implemented by CMS, in the face of an aging population. The shortage of neurologists will have a significant impact on expeditious, quality care of patients. There was, on average, a waiting time period of 28 business days for a new patient to see a neurologist in 2010. That number in 2012 was 35 business days.

There are many hospitals around the nation that lack 24/7/365 neurologic coverage. Telemedicine offers a cost-effective, high-quality alternative to the underserved neurologic care of many hospital systems.

As defined by the American Telemedicine Association, there are four fundamental benefits: