Telemedicine lies at the cutting edge of technology and medicine. It allows healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations using communications technology. Patients in distant locations can access medical expertise quickly, efficiently, and without travel, and it provides more efficient use of limited expert resources.

Telemedicine helps eliminate distance through the innovative use of information technology, spanning not just the globe but also the urban-rural divide. In years past, the only way to get specialized care in rural areas was a costly and time-consuming trip to a metropolitan hospital, placing the receipt of that care beyond the reach of many rural residents.

Today, telemedicine is linking community clinics and small hospitals across the nation to teaching hospitals and other centers of medical specialization. Telemedicine technologies are also taking this experience into the field by mobile means and enabling patients to be connected from their homes or scenes of an accident to the doctors who can render the services they need.

Telemedicine also reduces the cost of healthcare. The greater healthcare availability it affords improves patient outcomes. Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine are as good as those given in traditional in-person consultations.

Market Research Future’s latest report finds that the global telemedicine market is expected to have a value estimated at $56.73 billion by the end of 2023. It’s currently growing by an estimated 17% annually.

Barriers to telemedicine still exist. More than a third of Americans living in rural areas—23 million people—lack access to broadband, removing those homes from access to at-home telemedicine opportunities. And, of course, broadband is essential for connecting rural clinics with telemedicine links.

While all industries will feel the effects of the shift to 5G, it’s expected to have one of the most dramatic effects on healthcare. With its superfast connectivity, intelligent network management, and the ability to move massive amounts of data, the 5G network opens up new healthcare possibilities that include imaging, diagnostics, data analytics, and treatment. As good as telemedicine technologies are now, they will only improve as we move into a 5G world.