How Telemedicine is Shaping the Future of Healthcare

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The evolution of technology has had substantial impacts on the world and has shaped the way industries function. Healthcare, however, interestingly, has somewhat lagged behind others and has been slow to take up new technologies to streamline their processes and functions. 

There has been a marked increase in the use of technology by practitioners and specialists in their daily practice management as well as engaging with and treating patients. In fact, research shows that the use of telemedicine services jumped by around 340% from 2015 to 2018. And since then, it has exponentially increased. From the 20% of doctors using these technologies, it is estimated that at least half of the doctors in the US are now making use of some kind of technology.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this is expected to increase even more, with social distancing and restrictions still rife globally. 

So, we took a look at the latest trends in telemedicine and how they are impacting the health industry. Not only will we look at what is currently changing the face of the industry, but what is expected to happen in the future. 

What Exactly Is Telemedicine?

Let’s start off with what telemedicine is. Essentially, the term refers to any kind of health-related service that is conducted via technology, or electronically. This allows practitioners and patients to interact and engage remotely, significantly dropping the costs of healthcare as well as speeding up the process and making it more efficient. 

Telemedicine can be used for remote consultations, scripts, engagement, and discussion. However, it is also useful in the following instances:

  • Appointment scheduling; 
  • Billing; 
  • Practice Management; 
  • Care;
  • Medical history and record access;
  • Medical Personalization;
  • Advice;
  • Reminders;
  • Education;
  • Intervention;
  • Monitoring;
  • Remote admissions. 

So, with this in mind, what is trending in telemedicine, and what is expected to evolve from it in the next few years?

Healthcare is Becoming More Personalized

The first thing to consider is how technology will allow healthcare to transform into a personal service between practitioner and patient. The FHIR article from Prolifics provides a thorough explanation of what Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources are and how to best use them. 

The evolving technology allows doctors and physicians instant access to all of your medical history and records, as well as real-time data about your current status. Not only will they have a centralized database to access providing them the detailed information about you, but they will also be able to access information to devices like your wearables to ascertain data on things like blood pressure, heart rate, and other key indicators. 

This will allow your doctor to make an instant diagnosis on your condition and be able to take action without you having to leave the comfort of your home. They will then be able to recommend medication, admission, or even refer you to a specialist instantly, lowering the time and costs of the consultation. 

There Will Be a Spinoff of New Tools and Devices 

Already, wearables have started becoming commonplace in the healthcare field. From heart rate monitors to exercise trackers like the Apple Watch and Fitbits, these have emerged and evolved over the last few years. But, they are expected to expand considerably over the next decade into full remote health monitoring, diagnostic and alert devices. 

In fact, devices are soon expected to be able to track your heart rate. Should irregularities be found, they will be able to alert you and in severe situations, alert your doctor to summon emergency services to assist you. Everything will be recorded for practitioners to make a swift and accurate diagnosis and be able to treat you quicker and with higher success rates. 

These tools are expected to expand into home messaging devices, clinical tools, monitoring tools in health centers, and telemonitoring devices. 

AI Is Going To Have a More Significant Presence in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence has already become a multi-billion dollar industry in healthcare and is looking to increase to at least $54 million dollars by the end of the year. Already, AI has been used in patient communication with video conferencing facilities, and mobile communication. 

This has skyrocketed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has seen various healthcare services like psychology and counseling services move to video calling. 

But there are marked developments in other areas too. A predictive diagnostic is an exciting new field that looks to significantly reduce waiting time and streamline services over the next few years. Analysis and screenings can be done using AI, cutting down the patient-physician time, and allowing more patients to be treated at once. 

AI has also expanded to include patient monitoring and treatment, with tools like wearables allowing doctors access to the patients’ real-time physical information, without them being in the same room. It will make it especially easy to treat the elderly with automated dispensaries and video facilities for instant connection and monitoring. 

There Will Be a Heightened Need for Cybersecurity in Healthcare

With the expanding capabilities of technology, increased share in data and information, including patients’ private medical information, comes the absolute need for tightening of security. 

Data protection is essential in capturing, mining, sharing, managing, and storing of data.  With the significant increase in health care services through videoconferencing, remote monitoring, electronic consults, and wireless communications, vital personal information has become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 

Practitioners and providers will both have to put in place efforts to protect vital data and information. Actions like only using fully encrypted data transmission and secure connections when transferring information and conducting calls are one of the first steps to securing the data. 

Internal policies will need to be updated, staff trained on cybersecurity best practices, complying with the relevant regulations, and investing in vendor software and solutions to protect the data. 

Last Thoughts 

With the evolution of technology and telemedicine and the overwhelming estimated growth in the next few years, insurers have welcomed the growing trends by covering more aspects of telemedicine. This has been welcomed by both practitioners and patients alike as it makes it more accessible for everyone to make use of the technology. New doctors are also being trained to use technology like AI in their studies and are expected to work hand in hand with technology to make diagnoses, engage with patients, and monitor records remotely. Many believe that we are still on the cusp of a total evolution in the healthcare field, and are predicting substantial reformations in the next five years. 

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