How to Overcome Physician Shortages with Telemedicine

How telemedicine is overcoming physician shortages


Telemedicine has evolved from buzzword to must-have for hospitals across the country. According to the American Hospital Association, telemedicine adoption rates grew from 35% in 2011 to 76% in 2019. As healthcare systems continue to consolidate, access to physicians wane, and public health crises yield life-threatening strains on hospital resources, the need for telemedicine has never been so clear.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of technology to provide remote, clinical care to patients. At its core, this solution provides access to clinical specialists in rural areas and streamlines operations in urban healthcare systems. Telemedicine solutions expand doctor networks to improve patient care, reduce expenses and streamline operations with greater efficiency.

Why is Telemedicine important in 2020?

So far, the impact of COVID-19 has revealed the fragility in our healthcare system today. As lines of sick patients grow longer in urban neighborhoods, and those in rural communities risk everyday infection with little access to care, physicians face unique challenges as our front line defenders. When resources are spread thin and demand for clinical care persists beyond supply, we not only put our providers at risk, we risk our communities as well.

A trusted telemedicine partner can relieve overwhelmed physicians of low acuity patients and augment capabilities in rural clinics through quality virtual care. Whether your practice is located in an urban city center or a rural community, there are several advantages of virtual care.

How telemedicine helps physicians in large hospitals

Working through long shifts, on-call schedules and managing the physical and emotional health of several patients each day, burnout is a growing trend among clinicians in healthcare. Telemedicine can help reduce the rate of physician burnout by expanding access to patient care and adding a level of autonomy that helps ease the burden on physicians.

  • Expand and streamline access to patient care. A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a potential shortage of 120,000 physicians by 2030 in the United States. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that this is a growing issue across primary and specialized clinical areas.

Hospitals can use a telemedicine partner to streamline their operations and expand their clinical areas. Telemedicine can also enhance care by treating low acuity patients virtually to reduce patient wait times and focus in-person care on more critical cases.

  • More autonomy, less stress. Patient throughput is a priority to busy hospitals which can create a sense of stress and urgency among physicians. Telemedicine provides virtual solutions to relieve the burden for onsite staff and creates a better work-life balance.

How telemedicine helps physicians in rural communities

Lifestyles in rural communities can differ significantly than those in larger cities. From daily eating habits to access to transportation, patients living in rural communities face inequities and other socioeconomic factors that can be a barrier to quality healthcare.

Telemedicine helps physicians reach rural patients and overcome healthcare barriers through remote assessments. This, in turn, facilitates a stronger physician-patient relationship, and encourages mindfulness of one’s overall wellness.

  • Augment practice areas in critical access hospitals. For every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available. This leads to longer patient commutes and complex coordination for clinicians to reach these patients – a matter of lifesaving importance to patients in many rural communities. Telemedicine can help connect hospitals, physicians, and patients and provide specialized care with the help of on-site clinical staff in each area.
  • Improved Physician-Patient Communication. The CDC reports that compared to urban areas, rural communities live with higher rates of unhealthy behavior, less access to healthy foods, and of course, less access to healthcare. Increasing patient communication through a telemedicine partner can help improve long-term tracking of the patient’s lifestyle habits to support more preventative health measures.

Telemedicine continues to grow in popularity among urban and rural communities. With new technologies constantly emerging, the right telemedicine partner will offer a technology and tool-agnostic approach to support clinicians and hospitalists in any environment.