School nurse taking care of student for telemedicine consult

Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine May Shift Primary Care Focus

As the public increasingly turns to direct-to-consumer telemedicine services for minor ailments, rather than rushing to urgent care centers or doctors’ offices, industry experts are predicting a shift in the nature of the primary-care clinic as one of the largest impacts of this phenomenon. Studies are starting to show that patients are turning to telemedicine instead of visiting an emergency department or urgent-care center, saving healthcare systems tens of millions of dollars each year. As telemedicine becomes more integrated into the way healthcare is provided, some experts believe it will become a routine, expected service instead of a special, additional feature.

Direct-to-consumer telemedicine offers convenience to the patient by reducing the time and travel required for an appointment. This service also provides a way to address lower acuity cases in emergency departments quickly and effectively, which frees up space and resources for higher acuity patients. Some hospitals have begun conducting follow-up appointments online instead of asking patients to return for an in-person visit, and specialty clinics are offering second opinions digitally to patients scattered across the country.

As telemedicine visits are relied upon more heavily for sick visits and follow-up care in place of traveling to the doctor’s office, primary care office visits may transition to mainly providing wellness checks and preventive-care services, said Tamara Perry, senior director of virtual health operations for Children’s Health of Dallas. She views the hospital as being reserved for the “sickest of the sick” while other patients receive primary care via telemedicine in other locations, such as schools and workplaces.

With 5G rolling out in major cities around the US this year, telemedicine promises to become even more accessible to patients who live and work far from doctors’ offices. Unfortunately, we still have to wait for the infrastructure, networks, smartphones, and other devices to be developed—which will likely take at least a couple years, especially for rural areas.

In the meantime, why wait? Why limit yourself and your patients? The swyMed DOT Telemedicine Backpack, Mini, and Xstream can extend your telemedicine connectivity even in the lowest bandwidth environments—so patients in rural areas and remote regions don’t have to sit idly and wait for 5G to come to them in order to have telemedicine. Instead, with swyMed, they can reap the benefits of telemedicine today; once the 5G networks are built, the patients will simply enjoy a faster connection. And in our book, anything that brings healthcare to more patients more quickly and efficiently is a win.

To read more about the shift away from traditional primary care, visit Modern Healthcare here.

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