5 Niche Telemedicine Specialties That Might Surprise You
Telemedicine opportunities extend beyond just primary care and mental health. Explore telehealth specialties with promising job outlooks for physicians and NPs and the positive effects they are making on population health.
The future of healthcare continues to support the growth of the telehealth industry. The telemedicine industry in the U.S. alone is predicted to hit more than $40 billion by 2021.
What does that mean for healthcare professionals? Opportunities for telemedicine roles are exploding in all areas of healthcare, allowing specialists to join GPs, mental health providers, and urgent care practitioners in this flexible medical practice.
Explore some of the more promising telemedicine specialties where career opportunities are growing and consider whether your specialty lends itself to this flexible career path.
What is telecardiology?
Telecardiologists review electrocardiograph recordings to remotely diagnose and treat congenital heart conditions, cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac arrest, arrhythmias, and other heart-related conditions.
Patient ECG data is remotely sent to the doctor in real-time via a secure connection with the help of an on-site healthcare professional. Equipment like digital stethoscopes, exam cameras, and EKGs make this possible.
Why telecardiology makes sense
According to an AMA telemedicine survey, cardiologists are the third-biggest specialist group (24%) to use telemedicine to interact with and treat patients. This telemedicine specialty is truly changing the way heart issues are treated.
Because telecardiology is more accessible, it can help reduce the number of missed cardiac events, treat and monitor long-term heart issues, and decrease door-to-balloon time.
Telecardiology also helps on-site primary care doctors treat patients more confidently and with an expert on their side. This can also help ease the burden for on-site cardiologists. Consider this: 75% of analyzed chronic chest pain referrals from GPs were actually non-cardiac issues. Telecardiology can help GPs properly diagnose and refer those who truly need it.
Telecardiology is also being used with mobile health apps like Cardiogram for the Apple Watch. This product pairs heart monitoring data with machine learning to track heart rate patterns over time in order to predict stroke or heart attacks before they start. In the future, apps like Cardiogram could help telecardiologists remotely monitor patient health.
What is tele-endocrinology?
A less common telemedicine specialty, tele-endocrinologists can virtually treat osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases related to the endocrine glands and hormones.
Tele-endocrinology was put on the map thanks to a Tennessee telemedicine endocrinology study looking at how those in remote areas responded to tele-endocrinology care. For participants affected by diabetes, the mean HbA1c decreased from 9.1% to 7.5%. This laid the foundation for tele-endocrinology as a viable specialty.
Why tele-endocrinology makes sense
The CDC estimates that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes, and a quarter of them don’t even know it. (Not to mention the 84+ million who have prediabetes.)
Veterans and those living in rural areas are more susceptible to diabetes and typically the most in need of care. In fact, there's a 17% higher rate of diabetes in rural areas than in urban areas, and diabetes among veterans is more prevalent than in the general population. Considering that many veterans aren’t located in a bustling metropolis with easy access to VA hospitals, patient demand for remote endocrinology is a growing need.
In addition, clinical outcomes for tele-endocrinology are promising. One telemedicine endocrinology study on veterans found that those who were treated virtually had the same health improvement rates as those who were treated face-to-face.
What is tele-gynecology?
Tele-gynecologists provide obstetrics and gynecological care for women’s health patients by reviewing test results, monitoring symptoms and medication plans, and delivering post-operative care via remote technology. Tele-OB/GYN visits can’t fully take the place of on-site appointments, but they do make care in-between visits more convenient and frequent.
Specific conditions that tele-gynecology is particularly viable for include postpartum depression, gestational diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia. Obstetrics and gynecology providers can also provide family planning services to their patients via telemedicine.
Why tele-gynecology makes sense
Birth control via telemedicine is a prime opportunity as more than 19 million women reside in contraceptive deserts. Accessing the care they need is difficult - they may not have time off from work, money to pay for childcare, or a car to get to the doctor’s office.
Though patient demand for remote OB/GYN care is high, the industry hasn’t quite caught up. Only about 9% of OB/GYN specialists use telemedicine to interact with patients — making it one of the least utilized telemedicine specialty areas but one prime for growth.
Particularly for second-time mothers, pregnant women have shown higher satisfaction rates with a combination of virtual and traditional obstetric care versus strictly in-office visits.
What is teleradiology?
Rather than connecting directly with patients via teleconference, teleradiologists provide remote care via a hospital or medical center with the assistance of an on-site care provider. Remote radiologists analyze and interpret MRIs, CT scans, and x-ray images sent electronically, eliminating the need for low-volume hospitals to continually staff radiology professionals and providing flexibility for the remote practitioner.
Why teleradiology makes sense
It’s not always feasible for smaller facilities to employ a radiologist 24/7 when patient volumes are low. Remote night shifts and emergency department diagnoses are two areas where teleradiology has caught on.
For providers, teleradiology can be a lucrative career option with salaries up to $550,000/year. Whereas teleradiology salaries used to lag much further behind traditional radiology incomes, growing demand and an increase in ED volumes have made this a prime field for providers considering a career shift.
What is teleneurology?
Teleneurologists remotely diagnose and treat neurological problems including headaches, dementia, strokes, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Teleneurologists often provide remote care to inpatient or emergency patients as a response to stroke, seizure, and other emergency neurological conditions with the aid of on-site healthcare professionals.
Why teleneurology makes sense
There is a shortage of neurologists in nearly all high-income countries and wait times to see a specialist can be long - particularly in remote parts of the US. But many patients admitted to a hospital with acute neurologic conditions rarely get to see a neurologist, yet they require urgent assessment. For example, stroke patients require time-sensitive patient assessments prior to decisions on thrombolytic treatment.
Also, with the aging population booming in the US in the coming years, patients with neurologic conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are projected to increase at a greater rate than incoming neurology providers can keep up with.
Remote neurology practice can provide the link between growth in neurologic patient volumes, urgent patient care needs, and low overall volumes of neurologists. A three-year teleneurology outcomes study from Vanderbilt University recently tested a remote neurology program via tablet in ten community hospitals. The results showed that more than 87% of patients were able to be treated in community hospitals rather than be transferred as per previous protocol, and 91% of community physicians were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the overall service.
Telemedicine Specialty Careers
Telemedicine isn’t just for GPs — there are remote possibilities for almost any specialty out there. Whether you’re looking for a supplement to your full-time job or a way to return to medicine after having kids, practicing as a telehealth specialist could be the way to go.
In many cases, patient demands are exceeding the supply of telemedicine providers making for lucrative career opportunities. Make a real impact on remote patient health and learn how a job in telemedicine can help you excel in your niche with the team at Wheel.