How Telemedicine Can Help Solve Our Increasing Physician Shortage

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.

Technology Can Extend the Reach of Providers

While healthcare advocates and legislators seek a long-term solution, it is imperative that healthcare organizations make the best use of their existing physician pool. Research has shown that physicians can deliver 60 percent of their current services via telemedicine. Telemedicine can handle minor, acute illnesses, as well as critical situations and for use in fields such as dermatology and psychiatry. Telemedicine can serve as a fast, short-term solution for resolving our physician shortage.

Improving the Quality of Service

Telemedicine technology can help physicians make the most of their time. As an example, when patients cancel their appointments or only require brief visits, physicians could use this extra time to deliver services to other patients. The technology is also an effective resource for delivering service to patients who live in far away, rural areas, especially those that require treatment for rare conditions treated by fewer practitioners.

Used to support a care provider network, telemedicine can share the time and resources of physicians located around the nation and the world. An international network of physicians could give health care organizations the support of specialists who would be otherwise inaccessible. This could help organizations mitigate the current shortage.

With nearly 30 million Americans having access to health insurance for the first time, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), telemedicine can help providers meet the needs of those patients.

A Possible Solution for the Shortage

In 15 of the nation’s largest cities, the average wait time for a doctor’s appointment is 24 days. Supporters of telemedicine envision the technology as a way to eliminate those long waits and major insurers are backing the technology as a way to improve efficiency and reduce health care costs.

One telemedicine firm, 98point6, employs board-certified physicians to deliver services through an app that uses artificial intelligence technology to engage with subscribers, and provide on-demand healthcare services via text messaging. 98point6 charges patients $20 for unlimited engagements with a healthcare artificial intelligence repository.

Community health outcomes and patient satisfaction are of increasing importance for healthcare organizations, as ACA mandates link these outcomes to provider reimbursements. Telemedicine can help healthcare organizations reduce response and treatment times and improve patients’ experiences. This trend is likely to continue.

About the Author

Sarah Daren's picture

With a Bachelor's in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.

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