Telehealth is the provision of healthcare via digital information and communication technologies. Most often employed via computers, tablets and smartphones, telehealth also includes an emerging range of health products such as remote monitoring devices, digital biomarkers and wearable technology.
While telehealth adoption had been growing steadily over the last decade, its role in facilitating care during the COVID-19 pandemic cemented its place as an essential healthcare delivery channel.
While telehealth is presently most often employed through video consultations between patient and provider, it encompasses a broad array of clinical and nonclinical uses such as:
Aggregate patient data
Prescription management and adherence
This list is only a small selection of the current ways in which telehealth is deployed. Over the next few years, we’ll continue to see the scope of telemedicine expand into new arenas while growing even more capable in current fields like:
With the COVID-19 pandemic unleashing its impact on a global scale, numerous nations are scrambling to adopt various strategies and protocols to mitigate further spread of the virus. One common protocol initiated across more than 25 nations is social distancing.
In a bid to ensure this social distancing, worldwide economies have begun the implementation of partial or complete lockdowns. While this is considered to be a largely helpful endeavor, one challenge arising from these lockdowns is limitations in access to healthcare. This presents a significant conundrum for global populations as the need for healthcare access is becoming increasingly important in the current scenario.
Amid these concerns, however, technology presents a lucrative solution; telemedicine.
Many healthcare facilities and regulatory authorities are rapidly seeking alternative healthcare solutions to offer seamless medical aid whilst mitigating risk of exposure. Telemedicine shows immense potential in this regard, by limiting the need for hospital visits, and implementing more optimized allocations of hospital capacity to integral cases, by offering access to robust healthcare through digital means.
The telemedicine market is also witnessing great support from global regulatory authorities like WHO and CDC in recent times, in an effort to safeguard medical staff and other frontline workers, without influencing the delivery of healthcare services.
The evolution of telemedicine
Telemedicine refers to the use of software and electronic communication devices to deliver clinical services to patients, without the need to make in-person visits to the hospital. Telemedicine technology is used extensively for chronic condition management, medication management, follow-up visits, and a host of such healthcare services, via secure audio and video connections.
While telemedicine has emerged as a prominent entity only in recent years, it has been in existence for several years. The origins of the telemedicine industry can be traced as far back as the 1950s, when certain university medial centers and hospital systems began to experiment with methods to share images and information through the telephone. Two Pennsylvania health centers were among the first to achieve success with this technology, through the transmission of radiologic images via telephone.
Over time, telemedicine technologies began to evolve, and witnessed a significant turn with the rise of the internet. With the emergence of smart devices, designed to facilitate high-quality video transmission, delivery of remote healthcare solutions to patients in their workplaces, homes or assisted living facilities became more prevalent, thus presenting an ideal alternative to in-person clinical visits for both specialized and primary healthcare.
Rising risk of COVID-19 transmission through contact is necessitating the development of effective telemedicine solutions
As concerns arising from the global pandemic continue to surge, telemedicine is beginning to emerge as a lucrative and sustainable preventative and treatment solution to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Virtual care services are helping bridge the gap between the population, health systems, and physicians. These solutions enable everybody, particularly symptomatic patients, to seek medical health from the comfort of their homes and communicate seamlessly with their doctors via digital means, thus reducing the risk of exposure for both medical staff as well as the general population.
Verizon and Emory Healthcare have entered into a strategic partnership to develop and test 5G Ultra Wideband-enabled use cases that could transform the healthcare industry. As part of the partnership, Verizon lit up the Emory Healthcare Innovation Hub (EHIH) with 5G Ultra Wideband service, making it the nation’s first 5G healthcare innovation lab.
EHIH is a healthcare advancement and commercialization program committed to improving the patient care and provider experience. EHIH does this by leveraging the 11TEN Innovation Partners’ “demand driven innovation” approach to solving the most pressing problems facing health care. Verizon will collaborate with Emory Healthcare and its nine Innovation Hub partners, including founding partner Sharecare, to help spur the development of healthcare solutions powered by 5G.
The massive bandwidth, super-fast speeds and ultra-low latency of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network have the potential to help redefine patient care with real-time data analytics, giving researchers the ability to explore solutions such as connected ambulances, remote physical therapy and next-generation medical imaging.
EHIH will be able to test how 5G could enhance augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) applications for medical training, enable telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, and provide point of care diagnostic and imaging systems from the ambulance to the ER.
“The potential of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband combined with mobile edge computing to transform healthcare is limitless,” said Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business Group. “Which is why Verizon is partnering with Emory to explore the 5G future of patient care. With 5G, doctors should be able to do things like create holographic 3D anatomical renderings that can be studied from every angle and even projected onto the body in the OR to help guide surgery.”
“The healthcare industry, driven by value-based care and increased consumerization, is set for a paradigm shift that will put a much greater focus on connectivity and access to data,” said Scott D. Boden, MD, Vice President for Business Innovation for Emory Healthcare. “Across every facet of healthcare, from care innovation to reimbursement model transformation to decentralization of care, speed to data is critical to the digital evolution of health,”
This engagement is part of Verizon’s broader strategy to partner with customers, startups, universities and large enterprises to explore how 5G can disrupt and transform nearly every industry. Verizon operates five 5G Labs in the U.S. and one 5G Lab in London that specialize in developing 5G uses cases in industries ranging from health care to public safety to entertainment. While this is the first 5G lab Verizon has set up on-premises for a customer, it will be part of an ongoing initiative to co-develop 5G-related use cases to help customers transform their industries.
In addition to providing EHIH with 5G, Verizon will offer network and security services, project management, professional consulting services and managed infrastructure and sit on the Emory Hub Executive Advisory Board.
The ribbon cutting for the new 5G healthcare innovation lab takes place Friday February 28th from 10a-12p ET at One Glenlake Parkway, NE, Atlanta, GA. If you’re interested in attending and speaking to Verizon and Emory executives on site please contact the below Verizon spokesperson.
Although electronic health records (EHR) are firmly established in the medical landscape, ongoing progress necessitates that providers keep up with emerging trends. Here are five of them.
1. Combining Artificial Intelligence and Voice Recognition with EHR
Artificial intelligence (AI) has already shown promise for assisting doctors with making diagnoses or recognizing historical trends about a patient’s condition. However, several companies are investigating bringing AI to EHR via voice recognition capabilities.
At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, providers can query the tools by posing questions in natural language. For example, a physician could ask a voice-enabled EHR system for details about a patient’s last recorded iron levels from blood tests. The system would inform the doctor of those levels, plus tell them whether they’re in a healthy range.
Allscripts and Northwell Health also recently struck a deal for a platform that blends AI with EHR and collects data from clinicians. Using voice commands within patient care could be especially useful for providers who have their hands full.
2. An Increased Emphasis on Mitigating EHR Errors
When the ECRI Institute released its 2020 report containing the top 10 health technology errors to be aware of in the coming year, EHR issues were mentioned multiple times. The first instance related to providers potentially being overwhelmed with notifications from EHR platforms, ignoring some of them and perhaps overlooking a genuine issue with a patient as a result.
The report also brought up the risk of medical data not including information about implants in patients that are sent for medical imaging. The study recommended providing a single place to enter or check for the presence of implant data in an EHR. Finally, the ECRI Institute cautioned that EHR mistakes could happen when a medication administration order sent by an EHR platform does not match the dosage time the provider intended.
This coverage of such mistakes will likely cause health care facilities to assess their systems and see if the issues exist there. If so, they’ll look for ways to reduce those problems.
Patient care in the U.S. continues to modernize through rapid digitization, increasing connectivity among the internet of things (“IOT”). Supporting a robust infrastructure that allows for large scale flow of information through interconnected systems requires modernization of network technologies. One such technology advance is 5G.
5G is similar to its predecessor wireless technologies, such as 3G, 4G and LTE, but promises to have the capability to transmit 10 to 100 times more data than 4G in the same amount of time. 5G will also overcome issues related to latency, capacity, and customization that currently plague predecessor technologies. As the roll out of 5G progresses, the health industry is considering its potential impact of 5G on the healthcare ecosystem. Many believe that 5G will revolutionize healthcare delivery, and ultimately contribute to improved patient care. 5G appears poised to impact healthcare by facilitating faster and more seamless transmission of patient information at much larger volume than possible today. As such, 5G can improve patient care by facilitating Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), enabling remote care paradigms, and improving access to care.
One sector that will benefit from 5G’s ability to allow for fast and voluminous data transmission is AI. AI technologies are powered by algorithms that process complex and large data sets at exceptional speeds. With the arrival of 5G, health organizations may be better positioned to implement AI solutions directly into their delivery of care models. Advances in AI coupled with the power of 5G would foster care delivery that is data-rich and data-driven to improve quality of care and outcomes.
Additionally, adoption of 5G will likely increase access to high-quality care, by supporting remote care paradigms in the health industry. For example, remote radiological imaging and remote robotic surgery will likely thrive in the 5G world. The secure transport of extremely large, high-resolution image data is required for successful use of these technologies. The capacity of 5G to transmit these types of data at scale in a real-time or near-real time fashion will likely be transformative. Patients will be able to gain access to care from specialists they otherwise could not have had access to previously. For the same reasons, 5G will further untether providers from historical brick and mortar facilities such as hospitals and clinics.