More Americans sending pictures, texts to doctors

Americans don't just snap selfies and send text messages to their families and friends. They're doing the same thing for their primary care physicians – not to say hello, but to help diagnose potential health issues.

"Nearly 60 percent of smartphone owners have shared health information with their doctors through mobile devices."

Nearly 60 percent of smartphone users say they've transmitted information pertaining to their well-being to doctors by way of mobile devices, according to a recent survey conducted by Ketchum, a San Francisco-based communications firm. Additionally, nearly half – 47 percent – say they use technology to keep track of how much exercise they get during their typical day, such as chronicling the number of steps taken or determining their resting or active heartbeat.

Lisa Sullivan, Ketchum North America executive vice president, indicated that mobile technology forms an integral part of people's lives now, and businesses that don't jump aboard risk being left behind.

"This study points to a shift in people's attitudes and readiness to use technology to manage their health," Sullivan explained. "With U.S. smartphone adoption at 68 percent, now is the time for businesses that have a stake in the healthcare industry to push to develop approachable, intuitive mobile tech offerings that help the ever-increasing mobile user population improve something as personal and important as their health."

Majority of hospitals used telemedicine in 2013
Technological advancement has been a huge boon both for consumers as well as primary care facilities, and the nation's hospitals have adapted to the information age rather quickly. In 2013, for instance, over 50 percent of the nation's medical facilities used telehealth in interactions with patients and clients, according to a survey done last year by the American Hospital Association. When including hospitals that had just started to use these features, the rate was actually 62 percent.

"Telemedicine may help reduce wait times."

Not only is telehealth taken advantage of today in larger numbers, but experts believe it may help reduce wait times. Conditions that don't require an in-person examination can often be diagnosed via electronic media. According to recent numbers published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes approximately 55 minutes for the average patient to be seen by an emergency room physician. For children, the wait is slightly less at 51 minutes but a bit longer for adults ages 18 to 64 at 58 minutes.

Cory Rehfeldt, director of collaboration for IT solutions firm Logicalis, warned that medical facilities have to be careful not to choose merely any telemedicine product but one that is both usable and reliable.

"To do telehealth right, you have to master the idea of communicating clearly with patients from wherever they are, at any time of day or night, and on any device they have available while still maintaining a quality of service that makes them feel like they're there in person," Rehfeldt explained. "It's also critical to consider what integrating the right collaboration tools can mean to the workflow of a busy hospital or doctor's office; without 'presence awareness,' for example, you don't know who is on call and available to talk with patients via telehealth."

Several health insurers cover telehealth services
Insurers have acknowledged telemedicine and its popularity. In fact, nearly half of the  states have laws on the books that require health insurers to pay for at least a portion of the health services made possible by telehealth, the AHA reported. Otherwise known as "parity" laws, states that have legislation in place include Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Louisiana, California, New Mexico and Oklahoma, among others.

Given telemedicine's demand and effectiveness, more of the U.S. is expected to pass similar regulations in the years ahead.

IT and tech industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.