How Telemedicine is Transforming Health Care

It is often said that no matter what happens to the global financial scenario, the healthcare industry shall see a constant growth so long as the population grows; this is because healthcare belongs to the necessity category for humans besides essential food grains. Traditional medical practices have been followed since the time of Hippocrates, which generally involved patients traveling to the locale of the physician and waiting for a long period of time to get an appointment with the doctor. This proved to be a hindrance that humans conveniently evolved, so as to preserve order in the system of medicine. Serious cases were tended to on a priority basis and were followed by the elite customers who had the capital to leisurely finance their medical expenses promptly. This system affected the common man who had any minor, non-life threatening malaise that wasn’t a priority. Geriatric patients too were neglected merely on the fact that they had already passed their lifetime. Modern day medicine however did not see any discrimination, but the central factor of travelling to a physician and waiting for an appointment still persisted. Telecommunication technology paved way for a revolutionary change in the medical sector with mobile, smartphones, computers, radio, and the internet. Telemedicine became an amalgamation of medical sciences and telecommunication technology, thereby extending the reach of medical assistance to areas and locations that were previously difficult to access instantaneously. It also provided the convenience of home or clinic to patients and medical practitioners respectively. Telemedicine greatly increased the scope of healthcare industry by providing emergency care and saving lives globally. It is therefore agreed in a consensus among medical practitioners and patients alike that telemedicine is bound to open huge opportunities in increasing the global quality of healthcare.

The telemedicine market is primarily categorized into medical specialty and service process offered. The specialty segment includes: cardiology, neurology, dermatology, orthopedics, emergency care, internal medicine, gynecology and the other specialty areas that includes: gastroenterology, pediatric care, ophthalmology and dentistry. Dermatology is the clear segment leader in terms of market revenue among the medical specialty segments in telemedicine. This is in correlation with the CDC study that suggested dermatology cases to be among the most reported cases in an ER. The neurology segment is witnessing the fastest growth owing to the rising number of stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s cases. Cardiology, orthopedics, emergency care, and internal medicine segments however will undergo reserved growth during the forecast period. The areas such as dentistry, pediatric care and ophthalmology will demonstrate great growth potential and are expected to continue growing in the future with increasing prevalence of related diseases.

Among the various services of telemedicine, tele-consultation leads the present telemedicine market in 2013. On the other hand, tele-monitoring is expected to exhibit the highest growth rate for the forecast period. This was attributed to the growing geriatric and disabled populations who are commonly diagnosed with diabetes and cardiovascular complications. Neurological complications such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s represent the other reason for the requirement of continuous monitoring of patients. Tele-education, tele-training and tele-surgery are the recent additions to telemedicine that have an attractive growth potential; however they consist of a smaller fraction of the overall global telemedicine market. Tele-care is a well known segment among telemedicine users and providers alike, it mainly comprises chronic and acute care and rehabilitation services offered to home bound patients worldwide.

Geographically, North America was the largest telemedicine market in terms of revenue for the year 2013 followed by the Asia Pacific region. The Asia Pacific region also exhibited the fastest growth rate was and is expected to lead the global market by the end of the decade. Rising populations in rural and urban areas and increased government initiatives are the primary reasons why this region boasts of a high growth rate. This coupled with the existence of a large number of technology manufacturing units in this region offering cheaper equipment, shall ensure steady market penetration and market growth for the future.

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The telemedicine market is observed to be a highly diverse market with the presence of a large number of big and small players. However a noted few players present themselves as the largest telemedicine companies globally. These include, CISCO Systems, Inc., AMD Global Telemedicine, Inc., Polycom Corp. and McKesson Corporation, to name a few. Among these, CISCO Systems, Inc was found to have the largest global presence, offering a wide range of telemedicine services worldwide. Their market presence in emerging markets and expertise in providing software solutions paved the way to their stronghold in the industry. The other companies include, Agfa HealthCare NV, Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc., AMD Global Telemedicine, Inc., CARDIOCOM, LLC, CISCO Systems, Inc., F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., Honeywell HomMed LLC, InTouch Technologies, Inc., LifeWatch AG, Medtronic, Inc., OBS Medical Ltd., Siemens Healthcare, and McKesson Corp.

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