Telemedicine is a medical solution enabling healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients at a distance using remote technology. It enables practitioners to assess the health of their patients remotely. This approach has seen incredible growth during the last decade and has become an important asset within the French healthcare system.
This innovative solution may become a timely answer to several issues within the medical sector, considering the number of willing patients and the growing number of practitioners and healthcare centres using this method of communication.
So how does telemedicine work, and what are the advantages for a medical centre or practitioner?
Definition and legal recognition
Telemedicine is first defined in the Law of 21 July 2019, but was fully recognised from 15 September 2018. Telemedicine entered into common law from this date, and is officially reimbursed by mutual insurance companies.
For this reason, remote consultations must be carried out via video using a secure video platform to ensure an appropriate level of security for users.
It is crucial to mention that this medical solution does not replace traditional consultations, but instead facilitates access to local care or supports the work of isolated healthcare centres.
There are several types of remote medicine:
- Teleconsultation: Consultation held remotely. This service can be provided by any practitioner.
- Tele-expertise: Consultation held between two professionals to reach a diagnosis based on clinical data. This means a specialist opinion can be obtained in a very quick manner.
- Remote medical monitoring: A doctor interprets the results of biological or clinical tests remotely.
Telemedicine has been included in the French national health strategy "My Health 2022", which confirms its crucial role as part of the French healthcare system. This scheme is based around 3 main approaches:
- Preparing future healthcare professionals and increasing the number of trained doctors by 20%.
- Creating a care community that serves patients in all territories.
- Making the digital approach an advantage with the arrival of telemedicine and the development of a digital healthcare platform for each patient.
Who is telemedicine intended for?
Telemedicine has become an essential method of communication between doctors and their patients. The majority of practitioners that use video consultations are general practitioners, followed by psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, paediatricians, gynaecologists, dermatologists and endocrinologists.
An increasing number of over-70s are choosing teleconsultation - 20% at present in comparison to 8% before the first lockdown.
A surge of activity during the COVID crisis
Telemedicine experienced huge growth in 2020. In 2019, 500,000 patients used video consultation. In 2020, this number doubled to 1 million during the COVID crisis. According to the impact study on financing from social security, the forecast for 2021 is expected to reach 1.3 million. According to CNAM, in February 2020, 40,000 video consultations had been reimbursed by medical insurers, covered by 3,000 doctors. In May 2020, this number had grown to 650,000 consultations.
The advantages of telemedicine
Telemedicine aims to provide a new approach to the healthcare system that reduces care costs. The effective removal of distance reduces the cost of transport or emergency visits.
Quicker access to care
Telemedicine should also speed up patient care and reduce the amount of extra time spent at the clinic due to a large number of patients. In addition, with an ageing population, those suffering from chronic illnesses that require continued specialist communication and follow-up can be treated via teleconsultation, optimising financial and human costs.
Improved working conditions
Telemedicine provides better working conditions for practitioners themselves. With flexible hours, competitive remuneration, no limit regarding overtime worked within traditional health centres and the option to work remotely for several clinics, telemedicine is becoming an important factor in the recruitment process. Telemedicine provides an answer to the request for balance and flexibility between professional and private life.
A solution for medical deserts?
Video consultation for patients is a way to overcome 'medical deserts' that have a strong presence in France. In a way, it can provide an answer to the shortage of doctors in rural areas. Telemedicine can help more patients that need continued care in different regions of France, especially in areas where the number of practising doctors is low.
However, it is important to mention that doctors must keep up practical clinical activity and therefore should not offer a service that is 100% dependant on telemedicine.
As you have understood, telemedicine is developing rapidly both in France and worldwide. The growing number of patients and doctors using telemedicine proves that it is no longer just a medical option, but rather is on course to becoming a crucial aspect of the public health system.
Looking to offer telemedicine from within your medical centre? Our team is here to support you in the development of your healthcare service and recruitment of your future practitioners. Feel free to contact the Medictalis team as your dedicated specialists in the healthcare sector.