Can Telemedicine Save The US Healthcare System?

Written by Dr. Ryner Lai
November 3, 2020

The United States is home to more than 300 million people. With a population of this size, millions get sick every year and need to be seen and treated by a doctor. However, the US healthcare system has plenty of weaknesses that result in suboptimal care for many.    The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the rise of telemedicine, which allows patients to consult with their doctors through video conferencing, without having to arrange for an in-person meeting. Telemedicine has every potential to revolutionize the US healthcare system – and potentially save it from failure. Let’s look at two weaknesses of the US healthcare system and see how telemedicine can address these problems. 

Rising Costs 

The cost of healthcare in the US has risen substantially over the years. Below is a graph that shows just how drastically healthcare costs have increased over the last 4 decades: 

This means that healthcare costs can be a substantial burden to the average US household. An even more worrying indicator of just how greatly healthcare costs have spiraled out of control are studies that show health spending growth outpacing the growth of the US economy. In 1970, the total health spending was 6.9% of GDP; in 2018, the figure has risen to 17.7%.    Telemedicine helps to combat the rising cost of healthcare by being a cheaper alternative to in-person clinical consultations. Physical clinics have to deal with the tremendous overhead costs of a brick and mortar operation. In addition, telehealth allows people to consult their doctor without having to worry about additional transportation and parking costs. In the long run, patients can potentially save significantly on healthcare costs. 

Healthcare Inequity

The United States is the third-largest country in the world in terms of area. Because the United States is also a federation of states, each with its own priorities and resources, healthcare looks vastly different from place to place. Insurance options can also differ across state lines.    This means that healthcare can look completely different based solely on where patients happen to live. When people feel like they are not getting the best healthcare available, they can do one of two things: stay and accept the conditions as they are, or travel to a different city or state. In some cases, patients choose to travel to a different country altogether, where healthcare costs are significantly lower. This is a phenomenon known as ‘medical tourism’.    Needless to say, people shouldn’t have to travel long distances to get basic healthcare. Also, traveling isn’t necessarily an option for some patients, especially those who live in rural areas. Apart from that, the Covid-19 pandemic has also made traveling more difficult.    Telemedicine offers a solution to this problem by allowing anyone at any place to connect with a doctor or specialist who may even be thousands of miles away. As a result, patients gain greater control over their healthcare choices. While telehealth is not perfect, it does reduce the effects that the unequal distribution of healthcare resources can have on patient outcomes. 


The US healthcare system has its flaws, but telemedicine has been shown to alleviate some of them. 

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