Top 10 Telemedicine Specialties & Treatment Areas for 2020
We leveraged the latest surveys and our proprietary data to develop a list of the ten most promising clinical specialties for telehealth jobs in the coming years. Telemedicine physicians and telehealth NPs: you heard it here first!
The combination of a growing number of Americans with chronic illnesses, a severe shortage of physicians and clinical specialists, and changing patient demographics, has generated an enormous gap between patient healthcare needs and available clinical services in the U.S. The benefits of telemedicine are becoming more apparent.
Telemedicine is helping solve the demand by bringing care directly to the patient, expanding the reach of specialists, and improving the efficiency of care providers. And growing job opportunities in telehealth are reflecting that. In fact, telemedicine is one of the fastest-growing healthcare market sectors, with physicians self-reporting a 20% increase in telemedicine skills year over year. According to Mordor Intelligence, the telemedicine market will be worth more than $66 billion globally by 2021, and with that growth, the demand for telemedicine clinicians is rising.
With that in mind, we built a list of the telemedicine fields with the biggest opportunities for clinical telehealth jobs. To develop this list, we compiled results from three (1, 2, 3) of the most prominent, recent surveys and studies on virtual healthcare adoption, telemedicine job outlook, and clinician interest in telehealth, as well as our own proprietary data on burgeoning virtual care domains.
We believe that together, this list most accurately reflects the current state of the best specialties for telemedicine in 2020 and beyond.
- Family Medicine Telemedicine
- Women’s Health Telemedicine
- Telemental/Telebehavioral Health
- Pediatric Telemedicine
- Ophthalmology and Optometry Telemedicine
- Telehealth and Diabetes Care Specialists
- Telemedicine for Men’s Health
- Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Telehealth
1. Family Medicine Telemedicine
As the first touchpoint for most patients, primary care providers hold a distinct gatekeeper and health management role within the healthcare system. But many conditions go untreated and undiagnosed as people avoid getting the care they need, whether due to cost, access, or convenience factors.
The majority of studies on telemedicine use in primary care support the practice and suggest that telemedicine interventions are at least as good as traditional care—a key to address treatment barriers. Despite the opportunities, a national survey of family physicians showed that only 15% of practices were employing virtual healthcare technology despite physician interest.
Telemedicine use in family practice:
- Wellness exam follow-up appointments that don’t require an in-person exam can be replaced with a video consultation
- Minor urgent care visits such as cold and flu, allergies, UTIs, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Non-urgent care visits to access treatment for “lifestyle” conditions, such as hair loss, skincare, erectile dysfunction, and more
- Leveraging remote patient monitoring technology to streamline chronic disease management
Job opportunity outlook in family practice telemedicine
As more practices adopt telehealth capabilities, including video conferencing and remote patient monitoring, telehealth family physician and family nurse practitioner roles will be needed across the U.S.
2. Women’s Health Telemedicine
From puberty to menopause, women require continuous gynecological care throughout their lives. As such, a fundamental part of a woman’s healthcare team, it’s disturbing that the healthcare professional shortage is already impacting this critical clinical specialty.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists predicts a shortage of nearly 9,000 obstetricians and gynecologists in 2020 and up to 22,000 by 2050. And new research shows the greatest impacts will be felt in metropolitan areas, including Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, and Dallas. With aging doctors and not enough young clinicians coming into the field, OB/GYN MDs and women’s health nurse practitioners are in extremely high demand.
The good news is that integrating telehealth technology into women’s health practices is poised to help mitigate this alarming workforce shortage. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are already embracing on-demand video consultations for birth control and UTI treatment as a means to improve access and expand the reach of women’s healthcare.
Telehealth applications in women’s health:
- Menopause and hormone replacement therapy management
- Birth control prescription management and monitoring
- Postpartum depression screenings and video consults
- Remote lactation assistance through video consults
- Reproductive guidance
Job opportunity outlook in women’s health telemedicine
Opportunities for OB/GYN MDs and women’s health nurse practitioners in telemedicine will grow nationwide as the physician shortage affects more than just rural women seeking reproductive healthcare. Family medicine physicians and family nurse practitioners can also play a critical role in this area.
3. Telemental/Telebehavioral Health
Over 47 million Americans suffer from a mental health condition each year, but due to stigma, high cost, and time constraints, far fewer receive treatment.
Fortunately, research has demonstrated substantial empirical evidence supporting the use of telemedicine interventions for mental health conditions—improving symptomology and quality of life, increasing access, and lowering costs. Behavioral telehealth has one of the highest telemedicine adoption rates across medical disciplines, with nearly 28% of psychiatrists reporting they implement telehealth for remote video consultations and other virtual care.
Applications for telebehavioral health:
- Psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis via asynchronous or synchronous consultations
- On-demand mental health counseling via video consultation
- Medication management using mobile health applications or remote patient monitoring programs
Job opportunity outlook in telebehavioral health
With such an alarming gap between patient need and specialist shortages, there is a high demand for telemental health providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and behavioral health coaches, and job opportunities in telemedicine reflect that. Last year, Doximity reported psychiatry as the second most in-demand telehealth specialty based on the volume of job listings.
The visual nature of dermatology makes it particularly suited to leverage the high-definition video and photo transmission capabilities of telehealth. And systematic literature reviews have shown a high degree of reliability for teledermatology treatment.
With most dermatology services located in urban or suburban areas and average appointment wait times of 4+ weeks, teledermatology can both improve patient access and accelerate treatment times.
Telemedicine also has been shown to improve care efficiency. In a Massachusetts teledermatology pilot program, half the telehealth consults determined an in-person appointment with a specialist was unnecessary. In addition, 30% of consults resulted in expedited care for high- and medium-priority conditions such as carcinomas and atypical moles. Timely access to care is critical for many dermatological conditions, as illustrated with melanoma, where providing specialty treatment within 14 days of diagnosis can improve prognosis by up to 20%.
Applications for teledermatology:
- Coordination and care management for primary care providers to manage skin concerns
- Asynchronous reviews of skin condition images for diagnosis
- Remote monitoring of skin changes using photo transmission and video consultations
- Follow-up care using video consultations
Job opportunity outlook in teledermatology
While the number of dermatology MDs is growing, dermatology NPs and PAs are increasing at a significantly greater rate yet remain an underutilized resource. In the coming years, opportunities in teledermatology will continue to be high for all dermatology clinicians as a solution for more expedient and efficient dermatology care.
5. Pediatric Telemedicine
Each year, there are an estimated 171 million pediatric doctor visits in the United States. Yet studies show that 20 million children (1 in 4) still lack access to care that meets modern pediatric standards.
To help improve the care discrepancy, virtual pediatric care programs have shown promise to improve access to specialty care in rural areas, expand strained school nurse programs, and help combat chronic disease through remote patient monitoring and patient education programs.
While pediatric telehealth programs should not replace well visits to the pediatrician, they can alleviate the stressors placed on parents to miss work for doctor appointments or trips to the urgent care, can support primary care physicians in rural locations without access to specialty pediatric providers, and can alleviate burdens on emergency departments from non-emergency visits.
Applications for pediatric telehealth
- Acute-care video visits at schools or daycares
- Pre-transport assessments for critical care at community hospitals
- Remote patient monitoring of chronic conditions
- Specialty video consults to support primary care in remote areas
- Post-surgery follow-up appointments from the comfort of home
- Remote medication management
Job opportunity outlook in pediatric telemedicine
As more pediatric telemedicine programs are implemented in community hospitals, pediatric clinics, and school districts, telemedicine jobs for pediatricians, family medicine physicians, and pediatric or family nurse practitioners will continue to grow.
6. Ophthalmology and Optometry Telemedicine
Interestingly, the role of telemedicine in ophthalmology may lie in diseases unrelated to the eyes at all, like diabetes.
It’s recommended that diabetes patients receive eye screenings every one to two years to prevent diabetic eye conditions that can cause blindness. However, nearly half of diabetic patients don’t access retinal exams in a timely fashion, and diabetic retinopathy remains a leading cause of blindness among adults. Using telehealth technology, primary care providers can conduct the diabetic retinopathy exam in the office with the assistance of a remote ophthalmologist, extending sight-preserving care and ensuring at-risk patients can receive timely treatment.
Another telemedicine application is for retinopathy of prematurity screenings in premature babies, a condition requiring timely diagnosis and treatment for the best outcomes. However, particularly in rural areas, there is a shortage of clinicians skilled in indirect ophthalmoscopy and trained in providing care. Imaging technology paired with remote support from a telemedicine ophthalmologist can extend pediatric ophthalmology care to on-site neonatal specialists and expedite treatment.
Additionally, we’re seeing a trend in vision prescriptions being managed digitally for patients by telemedicine optometrists. Digital health companies are now offering online eye exams to improve speed and access to vision optimization.
Telehealth applications in ophthalmology and optometry:
- Remote review of ophthalmic imagery for diagnosis and treatment plan development
- Remote patient monitoring of chronic ophthalmologic disease with IOP measurements and macular visual field testing
- Remote eye exams for contact lens prescriptions
Job opportunity outlook in ophthalmology and optometry telemedicine
With the introduction and implementation of more advanced ocular imaging technology, telehealth optometrists, ophthalmologists, and ophthalmology techs will be poised to impact ocular screening rates positively, prevent treatable visual impairments, and more efficiently prescribe corrective lenses.
7. Telehealth and Diabetes Care Specialists
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans live with diabetes (that’s more than 10%!), and another 88 million are at risk of developing the disease. Despite the overwhelming prevalence and societal awareness of the disease, access to endocrinology care is a major barrier to treatment, especially in rural areas.
Due to the ongoing management of the disease, virtual care through diabetes prevention programs and disease management has been one of the most promising telehealth specialty fields. A prominent CDC study of telemedicine in the management of type 1 diabetes found the program to be a safe and effective alternative to in-person diabetes care—successfully lowering mean hemoglobin A1c levels, decreasing costs, saving time, and demonstrating high appointment adherence and high patient satisfaction.
Thanks to at-home mHealth devices and mobile apps, monitoring blood glucose levels and managing medication can be done without an in-person visit.
Applications of telemedicine in diabetes care:
- Monitoring and guiding patients through insulin injections via video consult
- Using mHealth apps for remote monitoring of blood glucose levels and carb counting
- Providing lifestyle education and personalized coaching through video consults
- Reviewing vital signs and recommending additional bloodwork when necessary
Job opportunity outlook in diabetes care telemedicine
With the growing care management needs of the aging boomer population, we predict greater opportunities in telehealth for endocrinology clinicians, family medicine primary care providers, or gerontology clinicians who treat and manage diabetes.
8. Telemedicine for Men's Health
Experts now say that annual exams aren’t necessary for most healthy men before age 40—good news for most Millennials who don’t have a primary care provider. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues that crop up that can be awkward or embarrassing to speak to a clinician about. From hormone optimization to erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, hair loss, or genital herpes, telemedicine visits can ease the stress of having to see a clinician in person. Often all that’s needed is the completion of an online form and a men’s health telemedicine provider can either prescribe medication or schedule a short virtual visit to diagnose and develop a treatment plan.
Men’s health telemedicine applications:
- Reviewing depression questionnaires & prescribing anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication
- Reviewing hair loss images to develop a treatment plan
- Conducting a virtual video consult to assess low testosterone symptoms
- Completing follow-up appointments with video consults
Job opportunity outlook in men’s health telemedicine
With a growing number of telehealth apps and websites dedicated specifically to men’s health issues plus the discreet nature of clinical service, there is an ongoing need for telehealth urologists and urology nurse practitioners and telemedicine primary care physicians and nurse practitioners.
9. Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Telehealth
One of the new frontiers of telehealth, occupational and physical therapy practitioners are just starting to incorporate teletherapy activities into practice.
Physical Therapy Telehealth
While physical therapy still requires manual guidance, there is evidence that physiotherapy assessments and rehabilitation exercises can be delivered remotely with the same validity and effectiveness as an in-person visit.
Applications for physical therapy in telehealth:
- Providing patient education in diagnosis and functional treatment plan
- Remotely prescribing therapeutic exercises and reviewing patient demonstrations via video consult
- Completing discharge notes via telehealth
- Completing follow up appointments via video consultation
Job opportunity outlook in physical therapy telehealth
In addition to traditional physical therapists, certain niche physical therapy specialties are thought to see especially high demand for telehealth opportunities in the coming years, including women’s health, orthopedic, cardiopulmonary, wound care, neuro-rehab, and pediatric physical therapists.
Occupational Therapy Telehealth
Within occupational therapy, telemedicine has primarily focused on pediatric OT, allowing school districts to expand clinical capacity, comply with the IDEA mandate for Least Restrictive Environment (by keeping OT children in the classroom), save costs, and increase efficiency. Pediatric occupational teletherapy can also help with early intervention providing caregiver and family education to offset future development setbacks.
Occupational teletherapy is also being used to facilitate aging in place for older adults—resulting in decreased hospitalizations and nursing home stays.
Applications for occupational teletherapy:
- Conduct individual, group, or class video instruction for sensory integration, fine and gross motor skills, visual-motor skills, and school-related self-care skills
- Conduct pediatric evaluations with parents, teachers, and students through video consultations
- Remotely assess work, home, or school environments through video consults and provide adaptive techniques and modifications
- Leverage home monitoring technology to assess occupational performance and provide self-management strategies
Job opportunity outlook in occupational therapy telehealth
Opportunities for occupational therapists in telemedicine will be especially promising within pediatric, home health, mental health, outpatient neuro, and wellness and preventive occupational therapy.
Before officially being labeled “telemedicine,” cardiologists were incorporating elements of telehealth into practice for years with the use of remote heart monitoring technology. Today, cardiologists conduct remote exams with the help of onsite techs and NPs, use implantable devices to monitor arrhythmias and detect hemodynamic abnormalities, remotely review patients’ self-reported health metrics and adjust medications, and leverage real-time ultrasound equipment to guide sonographers through remote echocardiograms.
Beyond remote exams and monitoring, remote procedures are also on the horizon. Remote PCI procedures, or telestenting, have been successfully executed from as far as 20 miles away from the patient. The hope is that these new telecardiology procedures can bring care to patients in rural or other medically underserved areas and bring it quickly—when travel for an emergency procedure can be the difference between life and death.
- Conducting a virtual exam with the help of an on-site nurse and an electronic stethoscope
- Providing remote interpretation of EKGs and echocardiograms through asynchronous telemedicine
- Remotely monitoring patients with chronic heart disease
- Remotely reviewing patient data from implantable cardiac devices
- Reviewing lab results and developing a care plan
Job opportunity outlook in telecardiology
With a predicted shortage of 7,800 cardiologists by 2025, hospitals and heart health facilities will be seeking cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, and cardiac nurse practitioners for telehealth opportunities to help mitigate any lapse in patient care.
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