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Telemedicine to save healthcare industry tens of billions globally by 2025

Research predicts good times ahead for key network-based industry, especially as teleconsultations improve patient care, but warns that deregulation of telemedicine is needed to maximise growth

Driven by teleconsultation services and, to a lesser extent, remote patient monitoring and chatbots, telemedicine is projected to be able to save the global healthcare industry $21bn in costs by 2025, rising from $11bn in 2021, according to a survey from Juniper Research.

This would represent a growth rate of over 80% in the next four years and a big bounce back for the remote provision of healthcare services which saw a challenging year, said analysts. Indeed, reports suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed hospitals and clinics to change the way they operate to ensure the safety of their staff and patients, as well as changes among primary care providers and small practices.

Reduced office visits due to safety concerns in the early stages of the pandemic forced many offices to quickly consider telehealth to continue caring for and monitoring patients who chose to avoid waiting rooms.

This saw telehealth implemented in a variety of ways, including setups that focus on facilitating audio and video calls between patient and care provider, and systems that go as far as supporting remote monitoring of a patient’s vitals in real time. These have proved to be the most desirable options during the pandemic because they enable patients to stay home and interact with their care team without the risk of travel and exposure to the virus.

Juniper’s report, Telemedicine: emerging technologies, regional readiness & market forecasts 2021-2025, estimated that more than 280 million teleconsultations were performed in 2019, rising to 348 million in 2020 during the pandemic. It said the activities of third-party healthcare service developers will be crucial in accelerating the deployment of emerging telemedicine services and increasing the uptake among healthcare providers.

The research also identified teleconsultations, a service that enables patients and physicians to interact remotely, as another key service that will enable significant savings. But it cautioned that savings would be restricted to developed nations, where access to required devices and internet connectivity is prevalent. As a result, it predicted that over 80% of savings will be attributable to North America and Europe by 2025.

However, the survey cautioned that the significant investment into integrating telemedicine services, and the requirement of data protection, such as the US’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), could discourage adoption among smaller healthcare providers. To foster the adoption of telemedicine services, the report recommended that healthcare regulatory bodies continue to deregulate telemedicine services to minimise any remaining barriers to entry for smaller healthcare providers.

“Any deregulation must ensure that patient confidentiality is not undermined,” said research author Adam Wears. “Additionally, we recommend that innovative and emerging teleconsultation services are integrated into existing healthcare technologies, such as electronic health records, to maximise their benefits to healthcare providers.”

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