Telehealth: The Next Revolution

Medical technology takes a leap during the pandemic… and shows no signs of stopping!

In the blink of an eye, everything stopped. Life as we knew it ceased to exist and in its place, uncertainty and fear emerged. 

It is no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world, affecting countries, governments, businesses, and individuals in massive ways. And, as a result, we had to find innovative means in which to cope and adapt to the “new normal”.  Consequently, technology took unforeseen leaps and bounds – helping millions respond to the crisis at hand. 

With work-from-home, social distancing, and quarantine orders, it became paramount that we be able to continue living, dependent upon already existing and start-up technology alike. Such technologies took numerous forms: video conferencingcontactless robotic deliveries, and 3D printing for example. But perhaps most notable was the increase in and advancement of telehealth capabilities across the globe. 

In a recent survey conducted by Updox, a virtual care and healthcare communication company, it was revealed that Americans are using telehealth services more and more since the start of the pandemic and liking them. The survey, after reaching out to 2,000 U.S. adults, published that 42% of those adults used telehealth services since March 2020. Among the many reasons stated by the survey participants for making the switch from in-person visits to virtual ones were “convenience for the patient” and “not having to worry about being potentially exposed to coronavirus or other illnesses”. Updox further published that a significant percentage (51%) of participants said that they would continue utilizing telehealth services post-pandemic. 

With the understanding that a wide swath of demographics will continue pursuing telehealth services even after the COVID-19 pandemic ceases to be an active concern, it is essential to consider the impact such a transition will have. Can telemedicine offer the same level of care that an in-person visit with a physician can? 

The truth is, it actually offers a higher level of care. 

Benefits of Telehealth

For example, the ability to speak with a patient and use medical devices to monitor his or her health from afar introduces not only convenience but also the concept of consulting with any specialist regardless of distance. This has huge implications for rural communities and the elderly population. In both cases, access to proper specialists or adequate care can sometimes be difficult if not impossible to achieve. With telehealth, there is virtual access to practically any specialist in the world all within the comfort of one’s home. Those living in rural areas would no longer have to drive for hours just to be seen by a physician – or, in severe cases, die from lack of care consultation. And the elderly can be treated by the best possible doctors without having to expose themselves to dangerous illnesses. 

Telehealth also offers the highest caliber of quality. Through remote patient monitoring (RPM) doctors are able to diagnose faster and with more assurance. Preventive care is always better than reactionary care. RPM devices are wireless and track a range of metrics such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, and glucose. Unlike monitoring done in a hospital or with hospital equipment, RPM devices typically connect to a patients’ tablet, smartphone, or even an Apple Watch via Bluetooth. These devices receive and then transmit the readings back as a continuous stream of uninterrupted data for a physician to review. This type of data gathering is not only more reliable, but also easier to process and understand leading to quicker diagnosis and better care. Additionally, RPM devices are monitoring the patient in real time. Through this technology it is possible to see when a patient is taking their medications, if the proper dosage is achieved, and watch the results. It is also possible with RPM to alert proper medical personnel should a patient need immediate care in the face of a stroke, fall, complication, or misdosage. For example, if an elderly chronic care patient who lives alone falls, with a RPM device an alert can be sent immediately to a local medical team as well as a family member notified. This is a recent development in RPM programs that companies such as TopDocRX, headquartered in Las Vegas, are perfecting in order to stand out in the industry. 

Looking Ahead

The rise of telehealth brings about a unique perspective for the medical industry in coming months and years. With the projection of a seven-fold increase by the year 2025, telehealth is set for a “tsunami of growth” according to Frost & Sullivan. What was once considered futuristic has now arrived at our doorstep in near full force. And companies are rushing to embrace, support, and capitalize on it. For example, in August, Google invested $100 million dollars into Amwell (formerly American Well), one of the largest telehealth providers in the U.S. This investment was preceded by an $18.5 billion dollar merge that took place between Amwell’s largest competitors, Teladoc and Livongo. 

With this kind of movement and projection, it is easy to envision the very near future of telehealth. In a matter of mere months, it went from mostly conjecture to a necessity. As companies such as Amwell, Livongo/Teladoc, TopDocRX, and others vie for prominent space in such a fast-pace market, it will become an amazingly fertile ground for the patient to choose the best option for their health care. This truly opens up the endless possibilities and benefits of telehealth for doctors, patients, and vendors.