After initially experiencing lagging growth, the telehealth or telemedicine industry of today is slated to increase at an annual rate of 18.8 percent over the next five years. Advancements in technology serve as a key driver of change. The technology of today provides patients with access to cutting-edge diagnostics and physicians they could not otherwise visit.
Explore Advancements in Telehealth Technology
This year, a little girl was in serious need of medical intervention. She was born with unique and life-threatening defects in her heart and lungs. One surgeon in Miami used creative problem-solving and a $20 device, Google Cardboard, to save the young girl’s life. With the goggle-like device, he was able to create a 3D model of the heart that he used to map out a plan for a subsequent successful operation. He saved her life and showed the world the potential of technological advancement in the field of medicine.
Consider some of the amazing advancements allowing physicians to do more:
• Videoconferencing and remote diagnoses. Several insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, now offer telehealth services to covered policyholders. If a patient cannot visit a covered health care provider or needs assistance outside of normal office hours, he or she can access an online health portal and videoconference or chat with a licensed health care professional. CVS MinuteClinic patients in Cleveland, Ohio, can now access on-demand telehealth professionals for similar remote care services.
• Virtual reality. In addition to the initial example of a surgeon using Google Cardboard, many educational institutions are using virtual reality simulators to give students hands-on experience and feedback as they train in the field.
• Improved security and access. Security once served as a major barrier to telehealth innovation in the health care field. Medical providers had difficulty using telemedicine and maintaining HIPAA compliance in states lacking reimbursement laws as they changed their approaches to health care. Today, almost all states have telehealth-friendly policies, and advancements in security give both providers and patients peace of mind regarding data privacy.
• Wearables. Wearables have the potential to reach every part of the health care industry. From notifying nearby nurses about patients in need to giving physicians immediate access to vital sign information, wearables streamline health care practices and improve data quality in health care settings. One day, health care facilities may use IoT devices including sensors to monitor remote patients in need of care.
• Mobile apps. Several years ago, telehealth practices required a complete videoconferencing setup for both patients and providers. The process was expensive and the quality of the call was subpar. Today, remote patients who have access to a cell signal or Wi-Fi and a smartphone can engage in digital interaction with a health care provider, including paying bills, managing prescriptions, and engaging in videoconferences.
• Online portals. The days of requesting files from a doctor’s office may soon disappear with the increasing availability of online portals. With a unique username and passcode, patients use these insurance and individual provider portals to manage every aspect of their health care relationships, including making payments, scheduling appointments, and receiving lab results.
• Unified communications in hospital facilities. One hospital in Toronto has taken technological advancement to the next level. The facility is completely digital, from checking in to receiving medication. While real-world physicians and staff members monitor and engage as necessary, the facility itself is designed to streamline every hospital experience to reduce errors and improve the efficiency of the patient experience.
The future of telehealth looks bright. Technology is already affecting health outcomes and driving changes within the industry. As fears of health care professional shortages and access loom, telehealth serves as a beacon of hope in the future of medicine.