Population of the world is growing and is currently estimated at 7.45 billion. With the increase in population it can be expected with certainty that the demand for healthcare services will witness huge growth. But, the current healthcare system has no hope to meet the growing demands without telemedicine. Telemedicine has the potential to provide better healthcare services for most of the population with low setup costs compared to hospitals and less healthcare expenditure for patients by reducing travel, consultation and regular monitoring costs. It will expand to areas where hospitals can never run profitably. With the growing population and decreasing death rate the average age of population is increasing. Though aged population account for most of healthcare expenditure, many older people are not utilizing healthcare services. And for changing this telemedicine is the best and might be the only ally of Health Care System.
What is Aging Population? And what is Health Aging?
Aging Population can be mentioned simply as increasing number of people with age 60 years and over. This is generally conceived as a major driver for the Healthcare Market. The reason for that is very clear, with increasing age, healing abilities and response to medication decrease; longer a person lives, longer the time he is sick; diseases like dementia which are majorly associated with older people become more prevalent.
Health aging can be simplified to the decrease in the proportion of time a person is sick in his lifetime. The concept has risen from the need of providing healthcare services to the rapid aging of population.
As mentioned above aging of population is often associated with increasing health care needs, but in the low and middle income countries, the demand for health care is not clearly associated with the utilization of health services. Telemedicine can be the boost that the health care system needs to address the issue of aging population.
Why is this happening?
A simple analysis done by comparing birth rates and death rates, more than 60 years ago and now is enough to understand the reason. Death rate has decreased significantly in the past few decades because of the development of medicine. Fertility rate in the mid-twentieth century in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean is above five children per woman, on average, which is higher than fertility rate in 1950-155 in Europe which had already fallen below three children per woman in many countries. Hence the growth rates of the older populations in those regions today are significantly faster than in Europe.
Unlike many transitions that our society would undergo in the next 50 years, trends of population aging are largely predictable. We know how the population is aging demographically and taking necessary actions now could mean better future for the world.
In a World Health survey by WHO, top reasons given by adults aged 60 years or over for not receiving health services are could not afford the visit, no transport, could not afford visit. These reasons account for more than 60% of the respondents in lower-middle and low income countries.
Figure: Reasons given by adults aged 60 years or older for not accessing health-care services, by countries’ income category Source: World Report on Aging and Health 2015, by WHO
Telemedicine with its cost reduction and less or no need of transportation characteristics can play a major role in in lower-middle and low income countries by helping more than 60% of population aged 60 years or over utilize health services. Tele-monitoring can help people suffering from chronic conditions by eliminating the need to travel to hospitals, for regular visits with doctors by enabling them to monitor and manage their health condition and health care choices themselves. Research Analysts at Market Data Forecast have observed that many governments have noticed this and are taking initiatives to use telemedicine for the healthy aging of geriatric population, driving the telemedicine market growth. With large portion of market size still untapped, telemedicine market provides feasible opportunities to all the companies in the industry.
The Global Telemedicine market in 2015 is estimated at 25.5 USD billion and is projected to increase with a CAGR of 17.85 to reach 68 USD billion in 2021. Asia-Pacific is going to witness the fastest growth of telemedicine market with aging population acting as a major driver. The global telemedicine market is segmented by type into technology and services; by applications into tele-dermatology, tele-radiology, tele cardiology, tele-neurology, emergency care, tele-pathology, home health and others; by delivery mode into web-based, cloud-based and others; by end users into tele-hospitals/clinics, tele-home. The Global Telemedicine market by technology is segmented into Hardware, software and telecommunications; by service into remote patient monitoring, store and forward and real-time interactive. Geographically the market is segmented into North America (U.S., Canada), Europe (Germany, France, U.K.), Asia-Pacific (India, China, Japan), Rest of the world (Latin America, Middle east & Africa).