Telehealth Technology is Changing The Face of Healthcare
By The Beta District
From pre-appointment scheduling to postoperative care, telehealth has become much more than talking to a doctor on a screen.
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a monumental shift in healthcare from in-person to telehealth care – and it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Recently released data from McKinsey shows that, although down from its early 2020 peak, the use of telehealth technology “has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic.”
Although the specifics of telehealth’s long-term future depend largely on permanent changes to national healthcare policy, many experts say that telehealth technology is here to stay. Telehealth is much more than talking to a doctor through a screen; it’s a modality that’s changing virtual and in-person care for healthcare providers and patients alike, across the full continuum of care. Here are just a few examples of how that’s happening:
- Telehealth is transforming the pre-appointment experience. Once rarely used, healthcare providers are using online portals to handle a variety of preparatory tasks, including COVID screenings and registration forms. Some platforms are incorporating artificial intelligence and chatbots to help patients determine whether they even need an appointment with a doctor.
- Consumer technologies provide doctors with richer patient data. Connected smart home devices can provide patients with critical reminders, such as when they need to take medication or to attend an appointment. Wearable and mobile devices can be actively or passively used to collect information like heart rate, glucose levels, and physical activity. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to “better process this data to better inform their diagnoses and courses of treatment.”
- Telehealth technologies can help improve hospital outcomes. Using telehealth before and after a patient undergoes a surgical procedure can help reduce the length of time they are admitted as well as the potential for readmission. Applications include pre-operation fitness coaching to gain strength before an operation, periodic video check-ins to reinforce hospital discharge instructions, and remote health monitoring using wearable devices.
- Technology increases access to specialized expertise for doctors and patients. Telehealth technologies can facilitate provider-to-provider expertise sharing, especially in vital specialties like stroke care and intensive care, and in conducting and interpreting imaging tests. When doctors can access live collaboration platforms, it offers people in rural or underserved areas “a better chance of getting timely diagnosis and treatment, wherever they live.”
- Increasingly sophisticated platforms are improving interoperability and data security. One of the major drawbacks to early telehealth platforms was their inability to integrate with core healthcare infrastructure like electronic medical records and scheduling software. Additionally, popular video conferencing platforms weren’t necessarily secure enough to meet HIPAA standards. Emerging telehealth technologies are addressing both interoperability and security to provide health care organizations with more complete solutions.
Bringing telehealth innovations from idea to implementation, faster
News media, researchers, and medical professionals have long documented the benefits of telehealth. These benefits include increased access to care for rural and underserved communities, improved outcomes for patients with multiple chronic conditions, lower costs, and better timeliness of care. But sustaining and advancing successful telehealth technologies and their application requires research, development, and most importantly, testing.
Private companies and even national governments are working to create environments that can move telehealth innovations from lab to market as fast as possible. For example, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has created a “test bed initiative to implement and evaluate innovations in defined geographic areas.” Here in the United States, The Beta District’s Living Labs offer telehealth innovators a similar opportunity to test their technologies and gather data in a variety of settings, climates, and scenarios. The Beta District houses disruptive startups, industry leaders, and a world-renowned research university – all of which create a community that shares insights, lends support, and spurs bigger innovations.