Urgent care centers that are dipping a toe into the telehealth pool may be helping to set standards that will become common practice in years to come. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts that telehealth will continue to grow, becoming more prevalent in teaching hospitals and opening the door for better chronic disease management. The article identifies three trends fueling its growth:
- Transformation from an application that increases access to healthcare to one that provides convenience and eventually reduces cost.
- Expansion from addressing acute conditions to also managing episodic and chronic conditions.
- Migration from hospitals and clinics to the home and mobile devices.
The article does not turn a blind eye to obstacles, however, noting that reimbursement and clinical, legal, and social barriers still need to be overcome. (Recent news reports seem to answer some of these concerns: The New York-Presbyterian health system announced a new telehealth platform that will be able to reach patients across the country, and a new report from the consulting firm Willis Towers Wilson predicts 71% of employers will offer a telemedicine benefit by the end of this year.) Overall, the authors predict that future advances in technology will enhance telehealth offerings, move more academic health centers to take a greater role, and ultimately enable more people to receive timely care.