By Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes
Telehealth is an industry that's full of promise. As a start, it can potentially bring medical care to people who would not otherwise have access to it.
However, as these predictions will indicate, the advantages do not stop there. Here are five things likely to shape the future of telehealth.
1. More Virtual Clinical Trials
One of the obstacles to overcome in the early stages of a clinical trial is finding enough participants for it. Most advertisements give you a brief rundown of the commitments they must make to participate, plus provide details of the financial compensation you'll receive. Another difficulty is that people taking part in clinical trials are free to drop out at any time.
Research also shows that clinical trials for certain diseases or drugs need more participants than others. For example, one publication indicated that clinical trial recruiters get an average of 275 patients for a cardiovascular trial versus 20 for a cancer study.
Telemedicine is already bringing about more so-called virtual clinical trials. They allow the people taking part to stay in their homes most of the time while wearing remote monitoring devices. Plus, the remote gadgets used for monitoring could enable you to more easily spot deviations from patients' baseline readings, especially if they show metrics over time.
It seems highly likely that telemedicine will facilitate clinical trials' progress by making patient recruitment more straightforward. The virtual nature of things could also mean recruiters are less restricted by geographic boundaries.
2. Telemedicine Will Strengthen Physician-Patient Relationships
Some critics of telemedicine say doctors cannot adequately meet their patients' healthcare needs without being in the same room. Others discuss how it introduces more distance to the patient-provider relationship. However, you may notice a trend where technology improves the relationships between doctors and their patients and vice versa.
A 2017 study investigated people's feelings about direct-to-consumer doctor visits. It found that 56 percent of the respondents felt it was important to have established relationships with the physicians providing telemedicine care.
Perhaps that's why Heal, the Los Angeles startup that provides house calls for patients, will soon have a telemedicine service that complements its house call model. It's primarily for people with chronic conditions rather than individuals who use Heal for urgent care.
More specifically, you can view updated patient data such as blood pressure and heart rate through an interface called the Heal Hub. Then, if you see an alarming change in the stats, you can contact the patient and advise them to come in for a face-to-face visit or make a change to avoid a health catastrophe.
Thanks to services like the one Heal will offer soon, people who initially felt telemedicine services fell short will realize that, in some cases, they can help doctors and patients have better relationships. Another thing to keep in mind is that telemedicine can support care team collaboration, even if the respective members treating a patient are in various states. As such, patients can reap the benefits without having to travel as often.
3. Telemedicine Frequently Used To Reduce The Spread Of Infectious Diseases
Stopping the spread of infectious diseases is probably a top priority in your work, and likely the subject of ongoing training. The increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can make outbreaks in healthcare facilities especially severe. Another telemedicine trend worth discussing is one that uses the technology to cut down on infectious disease problems by providing more access to expert insights.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) partnered with a company called ID Connect that links healthcare facilities with infectious disease experts. Besides UPMC, ID Connect serves five other hospitals in Pennsylvania not associated with that health system. The company wants to initially focus on acute care hospitals within the U.S. that have fewer than 300 beds, of which there are more than 4,000.
Using telemedicine in this way could be instrumental in helping you improve the management of infectious diseases. As a result, the patients in those facilities are at lower risks for associated problems.
4. Increased Access To Healthcare For Inmates
Health care for inmates is something that often gets overlooked, but telemedicine is making it substantially more accessible for people in correctional facilities. For example, New York City's system has 55,000 residents annually, and approximately 30 telemedicine hubs used to coordinate care between the correctional centers and area hospitals.
This use of telemedicine is beneficial when inmates need to see specialists and don't have easy access to them through other means, too. One doctor who sees gastroenterology patients in Ohio that are in one of the state's 29 prisons says he sees about 150 prisoners a year through telemedicine.
5. More Development Of Pediatric Telehealth Platforms
When telehealth first started taking off, some providers only saw adult patients. Pediatric telehealth options are more common now, and the trend seems set to continue.
The early results of an ongoing study assessing telemedicine for high-risk pediatric patients show that telemedicine is a time saver that reduces in-person visits. There is more evidence that health facilities are getting on board with telemedicine for kids. For example, the Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Teledoc, a telemedicine company, recently made a deal to create a pediatric-specific platform.
Assuming this trend continues, it could give youngsters more opportunities to get healthcare in their homes — places where they feel comfortable and most at ease.
Lots Of Interesting Progress On The Horizon
Whether you use telemedicine platforms in your work now or may do so soon, you'll almost inevitably encounter some or all of the shifts mentioned here. It's not difficult to see how they could forever change how people give and receive healthcare.
About The Author
Kayla Matthews is a MedTech writer whose work has appeared on HIT Consultant, Medical Economics and HITECH Answers, among other industry publications. To read more from Kayla, please connect with her on LinkedIn, or visit her personal tech blog at https://productivitybytes.com.