Guest Column | August 20, 2020

The Rise Of Telemedicine

By Eric Gray, Chief Solutions Architect at NETSCOUT


The world came to a screeching halt in March when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Schools closed, major sports leagues suspended their seasons, and residents needed to shelter in place. 

One industry that exploded due to the pandemic was telemedicine. This trend had been on the rise for several years to address the healthcare needs of remote communities, allowing patients in distant locations to access critical medical specialties, Telemedicine was already a growth market expected to top $130 billion by 2025, and the pandemic hastened that change.  

As governments issued orders for social distancing, one hospital saw use and volume of its telemedicine application quadruple over two weeks. With the dramatic change in demand, gaining access to the app became an issue. As patients struggled to make appointments or dial in for sessions, the hospital realized it needed to ramp up support for this new normal. 

The goal for modern telemedicine providers is to provide a safe alternative to in-person visits and reduce exposure to coronavirus. To succeed, however, companies must ensure that their technology infrastructure will provide both patients and healthcare professionals with a flawless experience. As telemedicine becomes progressively more common, providers must know become familiar with these complex services and offer a high-quality, secure experience to all parties.  

Healthcare delivery is now in a paradigm shift, and the current pandemic is accelerating change. There is a distinct, unfulfilled need to create new delivery models for providing affordable and prompt healthcare services. The core issue is to augment the traditional clinic and hospital-based model of healthcare with models that incorporate new technologies. This shift must happen while optimizing the patient and provider experience.  

Telemedicine is a two-way, real-time interactive communication between the patient and the physician at disparate locations. The delivery mechanisms include: 

  • Global network conduits that link physicians with patients. 
  • Software to deliver healthcare services directly or outsourced to independent providers.  
  • Operations Centers for performance monitoring and other patient care services. 
  • Web-based e-health service sites for consumers.  

Further, telemedicine is reliant upon unified communications systems that transmit voice, video, text, data, and images for clinical consultation and treatment. Also, at-home diagnostic Internet of Things (IoT) devices are now commonly used to convey critical medical data, such as blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygenation, heart rate, and weight.  

Telemedicine presents challenges for healthcare providers in ensuring that quality, integrity, and confidentiality persist. The specific process flow between doctor and patient may seem relatively straightforward, but it is quite complicated in terms of deployment and support. IT staff need to ensure high-quality, secure services are always available so hackers cannot wreak havoc on the system. 

Source: Telemedicine App Development: Trends, Challenges, Features, and Cost

Telemedicine apps utilize several different modules, and each one must work correctly. As hospitals and healthcare clinics deploy technology to increase capacity and handle the increased load and demand, here is how patients and healthcare professionals can ensure an optimal experience. 

Patient Scheduling 

Supporting visits and consultations through telemedicine requires that appointments be scheduled as conveniently as possible for both patient and provider. “Always on” portals to schedule interactive sessions are a critical component. If a patient or healthcare provider cannot schedule appointments or follow-up visits, delays, and inconveniences can severely damage the patient experience.  

Reliable Access To Electronic Medical/Health Records 

Also, online appointments must run on time. With back-to-back meetings and only a virtual waiting room, the doctor needs to seamlessly navigate from patient to patient, with ready access to their medical history and records. All telemedicine applications must provide reliable and secure access to existing EMR/EHR systems, both on-premises and in the cloud. 

Web Portal Access 

As the application protocol for distributed telemedicine models, HTTP/S is the preferred transport when connecting patients to doctors. As the front end to most telemedicine applications, it is critical to maintain available, high-performance web front end systems. When monitoring and troubleshooting issues with telemedicine systems, IT teams need to have visibility across web connections and through firewalls and load balancers. 

Voice And Video Quality 

In many cases, patients have higher expectations about being able to hear and communicate clearly via telemedicine. When health and peace of mind are at stake, patients require superior call quality, fewer dropped or misdirected calls, and exceptional overall experience when speaking to their health care provider. Most significantly, doctor/patient interactions require the highest quality interaction via video.  

Privacy Protections 

Telemedicine needs to be delivered in ways that protect patient privacy and ensure clinical mobility. Similarly, the technology used for privacy in telemedicine needs to treat potential breaches preventatively.  

Patients using telemedicine expect the same quality of care and service that they would receive during an in-person encounter. By delivering a superior experience through telemedicine, doctors will allow patients and caregivers to address medical needs through technology with minimal negative impact or delay.  

Telemedicine is already influencing patient expectations, provider economics, and healthcare outcomes. As technology continues to intersect with medicine, and patients demand greater convenience and excellence in care delivery, the future of healthcare requires virtual services that run perfectly. 

While the rest of the world grinds to a halt, telemedicine is marching forward.