Hospitals in the future will certainly include telemedicine, where telecommunications technology can help diagnose and treat patients remotely in the comfort of their own homes, according to a panel of medical experts on Wednesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego.
Dr. Randall Moore, president of Mercy Virtual, explained that his hospital is a $54 million hospital with no hospital beds. The aim is to streamline hospital care so that a patient is admitted only when it is absolutely necessary, reducing costs as well as stress on the patient, who could be treated from the comfort of their home.
He recalled the care of one patient, an 87-year-old woman who had been hospitalized 13 times in just a few years due to cancer and other health issues. In nine months, with Mercy’s virtual care, the patient was hospitalized only once.
“The reduction in cost was dramatic and she had a better quality of life,” Moore said. He explained that the beauty of how Mercy is handling telemedicine is to make virtual care one part of a holistic care plan, as opposed to relying solely on virtual care.
Dr. Ido Schoenberg, chairman and CEO of American Well, a company that provides telemedicine technology to health care companies, said that it doesn’t make sense to provide virtual care without in-person physical care. “It’s how to make care teams fully centric,” he explained.
Telemedicine, which is expected to be worth more than $34 billion globally by the end of 2020, is still very much in its early days, he added. “Right now 2% of health care is done online. In the future, it will be 20% to 30% of care,” Dr. Schoenberg added.
This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.