Note: This article adheres to the common use of two terms used to identify people who are Deaf or have hearing loss. The term Deaf (with a capital D) is used to describe individuals who do not hear and are “cultural” sign language users, while the term deaf (with a lower-case d) describes people who may lip-read and/or use hearing aids. 

The expansion of telehealth services across the country has made it possible for almost anyone with a non-emergency medical problem to access a doctor by smart phone, pad or laptop, often within minutes, or at least, the same day. But for the Deaf and hard of hearing, access to telehealth providers such as Teladoc, American Well and others is more of a challenge.

The reason is simple: a videoconferencing session requires participants to hear what the person on the other side of the screen is saying.

Patients, physicians and hospital staff alike can agree that the waiting room is not typically a positive experience for patients. According to a survey conducted by the design and development firm Sequence, 85 percent of patients reported that they wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment times until they see their physicians. Patients consider this to be valuable time that's put to waste and in many cases, their levels of anxiety exacerbate.

While new organizational methods and procedural changes can help get the waiting room in great shape, telemedicine has proved it can help healthcare organizations diminish the long waits and frustrations that patients experience. Here's how telemedicine can improve the reputation of the waiting room:

An aging and expanding population and a nationwide shortage of practicing physicians is worsening, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), and other healthcare experts. The AAMC reported in April that the shortage will amount to up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, as the number of new physicians fails to keep pace with the nation’s growing healthcare demands.

Analysts predict that by 2024, healthcare spending will comprise 20 percent of the U.S. economy.

Some experts forecast a growing pool of available nurse practitioners, who can help fulfill the nation’s healthcare needs by providing accessible, cost-effective care for millions of citizens.

In the meantime, healthcare provider organizations are evaluating technology that could help to fill the physician shortage.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a massive hub of data found in physical devices. From phones to vehicles to smart appliances, items network together to create a large pool of data for anyone to draw information from. A lot of companies find the IoT to be handy for customer feedback and getting ahead of market trends.

Meanwhile, telemedicine involves going to a doctor's appointment remotely — any physician who uses telecommunications to diagnose and treat patients is practicing with telemedicine. Telemedicine is a considerable help in locations where few doctors or specialists are available, and these virtual appointments are just as rewarding as going to a doctor in person. As the healthcare industry becomes more technology-driven, telemedicine is banding together with the IoT to improve both services.

Opioid addiction – both prescription and non-prescription – has reached crisis levels in the United States. The U.S. population represents just 5 percent of the global population, yet we consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. This has led to tens of thousands of overdose deaths each year, and costs the economy $78.5 billion each year. The problem has worsened in recent years, and has been declared a national emergency.

In addition, doses of over-the-counter pain relievers are sold in the tens of billions each year. Tackling this problem is no easy feat. With millions of people misusing painkillers or turning to illegal forms of opioids like heroin to fulfill the needs of their addiction, creative, easily-accessible treatment options are needed to help people get back on their feet and regain control of their lives. Getting help in the current healthcare system can be difficult, as there are several hurdles patients and doctors need to clear in order to get effective treatment. As a result, many attempts at treating people with opioid addictions fail.

One possible solution, according to a number of medical experts, is leveraging the power of telemedicine. But how can remote care help addicts recover? And is it an effective solution to the opioid crisis?


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