How Will Telemedicine Consulting Affect Jobs in the Medical Field?
Telemedicine is the term given to telecommunications technology used by physicians and other healthcare professionals to connect remotely to their patients. By now, most of us have taken advantage of telemedicine consulting by reaching out to our doctors using technology. Whether by email, phone calls, video chat, or mobile app, it’s become common practice for us to reach out to our health care providers via telemedicine.
With the rapid growth of telemedicine over the last few decades, questions are being raised regarding the effect of telemedicine on jobs in the medical field. Does this burgeoning technology herald a downturn in the number of available jobs, or does the potential for treating millions of rural citizens mean there will instead be more jobs will need to be filled in the coming years?
Perhaps a look back at the recent decades can begin to provide insight into these concerns. The growth of technology has occurred continuously in that time; one need only compare the tech landscape of 1995 to 2015 to realize the sharp increase in communication technology, specifically. Bulky landlines have given way to pocket-sized supercomputers capable of connecting us via video chat to friends and family on the other side of the globe, texts traverse any distance nearly instantaneously, and while in 1995 only a select few had begun to communicate via email, we’ve seen email almost become eclipsed by a hundred other platforms for casual conversations. Arguably no other period of time has experienced a more significant shift in humanity’s communication capabilities.
While naysayers have fretted that these technological leaps would reduce the need for medical personnel, the reality has been fully the opposite. Currently, the healthcare industry is one of the world’s fastest-growing, as well as being one of the largest. The healthcare field has grown immensely over the past few decades thanks in part to the telecommunication advances we’ve seen in that time.
There can be no real debate about the need for telemedicine. Rural citizens, for example, often cannot find doctors within a reasonable traveling distance, and those with mobility issues or mental health issues may find it nearly impossible to travel even short distances for appointments. Telemedicine serves these demographics by meeting their need for medical care in the privacy and comfort of their own homes.
Additionally, our population continues to age rapidly. The next two generations reaching old age will already be familiar with cell phone and computer technology, and consequently will likely adapt to telemedicine technologies far more easily than the generation we are caring for presently. It bears mentioning, however, that most telemedicine modalities are designed to be simple enough for even technologically-challenged patients to learn to use with only a bit of guidance.
This focus on treating currently underserved citizens would seem to indicate that there is room for expansion in healthcare staffing, not a call for reductions. Therefore, telemedicine presents a viable source of badly-needed jobs in a market that has proven discouraging, especially to adults aged 23 - 35.
Ideally, capable individuals will choose to pursue training in the medical field; if we are to appease those too busy to visit the doctor, those who are too ill to travel, and those who would simply rather email or video chat with their doctors, we need staff capable of administering medical care via these powerful technologies.
Just as computers did not eliminate the need for front office scheduling and reception staff, telemedicine technology doesn’t eliminate the need for trained medical personnel. The technology, as impressive as it is, is only as good as the provider on the other end of the line; the demand for excellent care will likely exist as long as we as a species do not decide we’d rather be cared for by robots instead.
For now, there are still more open positions in the medical field than there are great providers applying for them, and telemedicine offers more solutions than challenges to the gaps in care that exists.