By now we are all very well aware of the situation that we find ourselves in. I don’t know about you, the reader, however I blatantly find myself sick and tired of hearing the same, regurgitated negative impact that this virus has brought upon us.
It is still very important to keep these stories at the back of your mind, however dwell on them for too long and that will drastically affect your mental health and also urge you to lose focus on bettering your situation entirely – which you can definitely do without.
It is understood that this is not an easy task to accomplish. Being a ‘glass half-full’ kind of person, I continually ask myself the same question every day:
“What good has come out of this covid-19 situation?”
I find that the answer to this question presents itself in the form of finding new opportunities to be able to adapt to the “new normal” which is undeniably here. God help us all if we just sit around at home and wait for things to return to the way they were because I hate to break it to you – but if you do that, then you will face harsh challenges.
Yes, the Covid-19 outbreak has paved a forceful way for world-leaders to get slapped in the face by mother nature, it has made many greedy businessmen eat a slice of humble pie, it has allowed health awareness to become more relevant in our day-to-day lives and the positive list keeps on going.
One thing for sure is that since a month ago, social distancing has become a reality and this reality has given access to creatives all over the world to come up with ideas on how to reach out to their audiences and convenience their lives from a totally different angle. Never has the importance of telehealth become so relevant.
Would you be happy to see your doctor online?
Living under the circumstances we are in now where social distancing is very much existent, what would have been your answer a month ago would certainly be affected differently now.
A growing number of patients seem to be attracted by the convenience, efficiency and cleanliness of telehealth and online consultations. Doctors are also finding it useful as health services come under pressure from growing and ageing populations as well as social distancing regulations.
A doctor who is a single parent and finding it difficult to balance work and personal life has a solution to assure better quality of life for his/herself and the respective kids. Whilst the same doctor can work remotely from their study at home, offering a physical presence towards their kids and other personal agendas, their work schedule can be tweaked accordingly – and this benefits everyone in question. Giving doctors and practitioners the flexibility to work remotely greatly improves their quality of life.
Different to previous ones, this generation demands more convenient appointment times to be flexed around their faster-than-ever-before schedules. We are living in a world where the fundamentals are totally consumer based. Because of this, services have been tailor made around the idea of convenience for the end user – so why can’t this be equally the same for healthcare services?
According to a study conducted by IHS Markit, the number of virtual visits to a practitioner in the US will go up from 23 million in 2017 to 105 million by 2022, representing a CAGR of 35.5%
And according to consultancy firm Accenture based on a digital survey that they conducted, nearly two fifths of Americans aged between 22-38 currently seek routine medical services virtually.
Would you be happy to see your doctor online?
Obviously, there is nothing you could virtually do if you break your arm. That will certainly require a trip to the emergency room. However, the ease and convenience of telemedicine make it easier to get treatable ailments looked at and diagnosed far before it progresses to a point where a trip to the emergency room is required. Not spending time in a waiting room neighbouring ill people is also a major player in reasons why teleconsultations prove to be useful.
Script renewals, Lab results, follow-ups and well-managed long-term conditions are a significant portion of the patients whom doctors see daily and these can all be addressed through teleconsultations.
Visualising the Trends
Vulnerable populations will leverage telehealth
Common knowledge dictates that younger generations are more digital-friendly than older ones. This understanding leads to assumptions made that millenials are the targeted patient demographic to become independent telehealth users.
However, technology adapts fast. Developers have sussed out this understanding and will use the most innovative of technologies to target older audiences and make even the least tech-savvy of people able to form a friendship with telehealth services.
Healthcare providers are increasingly aware of how telemedicine can facilitate treatment more effectively for medically complex populations, such as chronically ill seniors or premature infants.
Telehealth will create a spin-off industry of peripheral devices
With the technology becoming more and more mainstream by the day which places the whole idea of telehealth to be more approachable and relatable, it is very likely that as telehealth grows, the need for other peripheral devices and services will grow with it.
Watch for the growth of tools such as:
- Home messaging devices that provide Q&A for patient education and self-management via Disease Management Protocols.
- Clinical tools such as biometric scales, blood pressure or heart rate monitors, stethoscopes, glucometers, and pulse oximeters.
- Monitoring center links connected to the hospital or medical practice with fetal monitoring, cardiac, pulmonary, or other connected care.
- Telemonitoring devices for the frail or elderly that capture room motion and respond if the patient falls or has a long period of inactivity.
Increased Telehealth Adoption
In late 2018 M3 Global Research pushed out a survey to 800 US respondents. Among these respondents, 62.5% were primary care physicians and the remainder were specialists.
The results of the survey convey an impressive increase in positive telehealth perception since the previous 4 years. While only 5% of physicians reported using telehealth technology in 2015, 22%of the current survey’s respondents said that they had experience with video visits in 2018.
From the 22%:
- 93% said that they believed telehealth improves patients’ access to care.
- 77% said that it allows both the practitioner as well as the patient to use their time more valuably.
- Compared to a 57% rate recorded in a 2015 survey, 69% of polled physicians said that they would be willing to use telehealth to conduct a video visit in 2018.
- Among these, willingness to conduct a video visit was highest with those aged 35 – 44 (70%) and lowest with those aged 55 years or older (60%)
Despite recurring questions surrounding appropriate regulation, physician uptake and comparative efficacy, the sector is growing and it’s growing fast. We should be seeing major partnerships being created and substantial funding rounds from players of all sizes coming our way.
Of interest is the extent to which legal frameworks protect patient privacy in EHRs as delivering safer, more efficient, and more accessible health care are factors that our health care systems are moving towards, especially under such circumstances. Rapidly emerging areas of social media, sophisticated technology becoming mainstream as well as big data for research all play a big part in the growth and potential success of this industry.
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