World Health Day was this past weekend. For so many across the United States, access to quality health care is limited by affordability or geographic isolation — or both.

But with recent advances in health care technology, expanding access to quality care is becoming easier by the day. One of the most consequential health care innovations on the 21stt century has been telemedicine.

How it works

Telemedicine allows a patient to connect with his or her doctor remotely, usually through cell phone apps, the internet — especially with video calling services — the telephone or other means. You can list allergies in your smart phone app for your doctor to see, send pictures or video of injuries and, thanks to some new innovations, record your heart rate with a stethoscope from your phone or tablet.

These apps can also track and record your medical and immunization history.

Who benefits?

Telemedicine is a staple of medical care for many rural or low-income Americans.

First, telemedicine is much less expensive than traditional consultations. A study found that a telemedicine platform for cardiology saved nearly $500 per patient in Medicaid costs. And while the cost of an in-person visit averages $125, a telemedical consultation runs less than a third of that.

Telemedicine is on the rise, too. There are currently more than 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the U.S.

The outcomes are encouraging

Nearly a million Americans are using telemedicine for cardiac consultations. And more than half of all hospitals in the United States use some form of telemedicine.

The widespread use of remote care has vastly improved preventive medicine. Hospitals have seen 31 percent fewer admissions and 48 percent fewer hospital days.

For Americans in rural areas, often hours from the nearest health care provider, these are stark improvements. Fewer trips to the hospital mean more money saved and better health outcomes.

On World Health Day, let’s celebrate these outcomes. Americans are quickly bridging the patient-provider gap with essential innovations in health care. And the outcomes show it.

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