Simply put, telemedicine is the transmission of medical information via phone, video, or over the internet. It’s a convenient means of remotely assessing patient health and delivering care, and it has the advantages of sparing the patient a time-consuming office visit and saving medical practices tons of time and money. Among the many services offered under the umbrella of telemedicine, it’s video telemedicine that shows the most promise: the technology can handle everything from complex robotic surgery to routine video-calls to patients. And in Europe, the advantages of video telemedicine are quickly being realized as the technology is adopted in more and more hospitals and clinics.
Telemedicine market shows impressive growth
In the past five years, the video telemedicine market has shown impressive growth: from $3.1 billion in 2010 to $4.8 billion in 2011. At this pace, analysts predict the market will almost triple by 2019, to $12.6 billion, following a compound annual growth rate of 12.82 percent. Many factors are driving this already strong growth, and experts predict that compounding factors could lead to even faster growth in the coming years.
The biggest force driving this growth is the increasing older population in Europe. A report from the European Commission on Economic and Financial Affairs estimates that by 2060, nearly one in three Europeans will be age 65 or older, while the working age sector of the population will shrink from 67 to 56 percent. This has the potential to put a tremendous strain on the healthcare system, as longer lifespans portend an increased risk of chronic disease, and a population that demands more from its healthcare system.
The main obstacles to the widespread introduction of telemedicine
Technological innovations and advancements fuel market growth as well. At present, the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of telemedicine are developing and underdeveloped nations which lack the resources to make telemedicine a reality. High technological costs are also a barrier, but as manufacturing ramps up to keep pace with consumer demand, costs will come down.
Telemedicine holds tremendous promise as a time- and cost-saving technology especially geared to improve care for those suffering from chronic diseases and the elderly. Video telemedicine has the ability to deploy limited medical resources efficiently, and to cross geographical barriers to deliver care as well. As technology finds its way into more and more aspects of medical care, it’s only natural that telemedicine will be part of this growing trend.