Telemedicine & The Disappearing Waiting Room
Willy Wonka character Veruca Salt said it best: “I want it NOW!” We live in a society that demands goods and services on the spot. With a few clicks of a button we are guaranteed an Amazon same-day delivery, an Uber in the driveway and Blue Apron dinners on our doorstep. To add to that list, the health care industry is jumping on the bandwagon of meeting the needs of patients in a nearly instantaneous fashion.
Gone are the days of watching the minutes go by in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Technology has provided us the option of managing our health care needs in a much quicker, cheaper and convenient way.
A 2014 article in Forbes hinted that telemedicine will revolutionize the health care industry. And sure enough, as we make our way through 2016, it has. The concept of “virtual doctor visits” is being embraced by consumers and health care providers alike. United Healthcare and Walgreens have already started rolling out the service and expect it to be available to more than 40 million people by the end of the year.
So, what does this really mean for the health care industry and its consumers? Convenience is certainly a huge factor that impacts both patients and health care providers. Patients can simply pull out their smartphone, have access to an available doctor’s schedule (perhaps through a site like Doctors on Demand) and initiate a video conference to get a diagnosis of the rash on their arm. No office visit. No time constraints. There when you need it. A total win-win.
The cost savings for virtual doctor visits also adds to their appeal. Some states require insurance for telemedicine, which means the patient owes nothing! At worst, a small co-pay could be charged. Even people without insurance are looking at saving at least half of what a normal visit may cost since online services range from $40 to $50. Startups like Heal cost a little bit more, but will actually bring a doctor to your home for only $99. Both time and financial savings make this concept far more enticing than having to schedule a visit, travel to the doctor, sit and wait… all for the same result.
While virtual doctor visits won’t make business sense for every clinic or hospital, all health care organizations should be carefully monitoring the technology-driven change in dynamics between providers and patients. As broad telemedicine concepts and tools become widely accepted, Veruca Salt’s attitude will likely become the consumer norm – not the exception.