Telemedicine refers to the practice of delivering patient care from afar through the use of cutting-edge communications systems. It’s a rapidly burgeoning area of medical practice, estimated at a worldwide value of $23.8 billion in 2016 according to a report by BBC Research. Telemedicine is expected to grow in the coming years with recent changes in U.S. law driving the acquisition of health insurance by millions of consumers who previously lacked it. The report contends that the sector will more than double to $55.1 billion by 2021.
Telemedicine is loosely divided into two segments: telehospital/teleclinic and telehome. The former category involves the use of the relevant technology in professional health care settings for consultations with experts and obtaining second opinions regarding medical conditions. Telehome solutions see outpatients communicating with their health care providers through the use of equipment present at their residences.
Telehospital and teleclinic spending totaled $11.1 billion in 2015 while telehome accounted for $9 billion. By 2021, BBC Research projects that telehome will increase its share to 60 percent of telemedicine spending.
Rather than deploying expensive, bespoke apps or software that must be installed, many companies involved in telemedicine elect to use simple web interfaces. The spread of broadband internet access acts as an enabler for this type of technology because all manner of health information can be transmitted with very little lag or delay. The real-time evaluation of patient data and the ability to prescribe treatments from a distance have led to better clinical outcomes for people utilizing these systems. Besides better care, another advantage of these new methodologies is reduced cost.
Smaller firms that are already leaders in this advanced front of medicine may face competition as larger entities jump eagerly into the game. Still, they can leverage their existing presence by establishing partnerships with the big players and by focusing on underserved niches.