In today's rapidly evolving world, the concept of creating a better future takes on many different forms and meanings, depending on who you ask. However, when we consider the future of healthcare, achieving this vision of a “better future” involves collaboration between various stakeholders, including individuals, healthcare organizations, and governments. The ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high-quality healthcare services, preventive care, and health education.
To ensure this, one of the ways is to expand access to telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, making it accessible to everyone, including mental health support. Recently, it was World Mental Health Day, and the campaign theme was “Mental health is a universal human right,” showing the importance of accessibility through various health fields.
At the recent "HLTH 2023" event attended by some of our colleagues from Devōt, the primary focus was on creating a better future for healthcare. The event aimed to connect industry leaders, exchange insights and explore the latest trends, all with a shared goal of making a meaningful difference in healthcare.
The evolution of telemedicine
Telemedicine has a rich history dating back over a century, but the actual term ‘telemedicine’ was introduced in the 1970s by Thomas Bird. It literally translates to “healing at a distance.” Going back to 1924, Radio News magazine allegedly introduced the first notion of telemedicine. The magazine used the term “radio doctor” to describe remote interaction between a patient and a physician via television and a microphone.
Throughout the years, telemedicine has been used in medical care for remote communities, on ships, and even in space. It offers a multitude of benefits, from assisting patients in rural areas to controlling spiraling healthcare costs. It brings advantages to both patients and providers, such as cost and time savings, a reduction in disease transmission risks in waiting rooms, and enhanced convenience. However, while it can connect isolated groups with healthcare providers, it often lacks continuity of care, advanced diagnostic tools, and specialized instruments for comprehensive examination.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a turning point for telemedicine, bringing a surge in patient and doctor engagement with telehealth platforms.
The benefits of telemedicine
Telemedicine significantly improves health outcomes. According to a 2021 McKinsey & Company study, 55% of patients reported greater satisfaction with telehealth and virtual care visits compared to in-person appointments.
Often in articles, the benefits of telemedicine are listed as:
Providing access to people in rural areas
Providing long-term care and treatment for people with chronic diseases
Online mental health support
Improved scheduling flexibility
Better patient adherence
It can also include the most simple benefits like interoperability, which helps to make the right information available to the right person at the right time. But, what are some other areas impacted by telemedicine?
The meaning of telemedicine in postoperative care
Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, but different levels of treatment still exist. Telemedicine plays a vital role in bridging this gap and expanding access to care.
Eliza Pippa Shulman, DO, MPH, Chief Medical Officer of Medically Home, said that people usually don’t think about homes as a place to get high level care. Most of the time, those home programs are considered for the elderly. But taking a patient that had a tough surgery and moving them home to be with their family and partner, allows complex care to happen in the home. Just imagine, if you have gone through something, would you rather be with your loved ones or stay in the walls of a hospital? So, of course, patients recovering at home, with the support of their families, tend to experience better mental and physical health outcomes. Strong social support is linked to reduced stress, adherence to treatment plans, faster recovery, and an improved quality of life. They are less likely to be re-hospitalized after medical treatment or surgery, and they have an improved quality of life.
Telemedicine's role in postoperative care has brought about transformative changes in healthcare. By offering patients cost-effective, efficient care, telemedicine has the potential to further revolutionize postoperative care, ensuring better patient outcomes and accessibility. Telemedicine is a highly beneficial tool for patients and providers. Innovations such as SMS text messaging, smartphone applications, automated calls, and wearable devices have proven to be effective in shortening hospital stays, improving the quality of care, and decreasing healthcare costs for postoperative patients. Telehealth allows postoperative patients to have their health monitored by their doctors without the need to travel to the hospital.
Digital health revolution in pharma
The digital health revolution encompasses a wide range of aspects, from telemedicine and wearable devices to mobile health applications. The primary goal is to make healthcare more efficient, accessible, and effective by leveraging data-driven decision-making.
In a podcast episode from HLTH, Pierre Laurent and Sai Shankar, Presidents of Aptar Digital Health, discuss the creation of patient-centric software solutions and digital devices to optimize drug delivery. In the episode, they discuss how these technologies empower patients to self-manage their therapies daily and stay connected with their healthcare teams remotely. For better value, there are now solutions that patients can use on their smartphones, as additional recommendations and support to patients. For example, those solutions will offer answers to questions like what is the right dose of treatment they are getting, whether it is something urgent, and whether an immediate reaction is needed and they need to contact the health team. These solutions provide personalized care, similar to medical devices, with a focus on enhancing patients' experiences and outcomes. Considering it is regulated the same way as medical devices, it means going through the whole development process. From obtaining regulatory clearance in different countries to ensuring the effectiveness of these solutions in supporting patients.
The role of artificial intelligence in health
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzzword that has gained significant attention, and when harnessed effectively, it can bring numerous benefits in healthcare. AI technologies have the potential to increase efficiency and assist healthcare providers and patients, especially in challenging areas such as oncology service lines.
A study by the JAMA Network revealed estimated cost savings between $147.4 and $186.1 per visit for patients with cancer through telehealth. AI, in particular, is transforming cancer diagnosis and treatment by identifying patterns that may be challenging for doctors to detect and analyze medical images. It accelerates the accuracy and speed of cancer diagnosis, ultimately benefiting patients and their prognoses.
Aside from this, it can also help with the administrative cost burden in the health system. The data shows that nurses spend 88 days per year on administrative tasks rather than caring for patients. If used as a tool, not as a solution, AI can reduce these administrative burdens. Artificial intelligence's true power lies in enhancing rather than replacing human capabilities.
The power of innovation across different technologies
Of course, telemedicine isn’t the solution to all problems, and there are things that are not possible to do remotely. But the truth is, continuous innovation is key in transforming the future of healthcare delivery. I mean, the data shows that telehealth interventions had a positive effect on cancer survivors' quality of life. Isn’t that enough to see how technology in health can break barriers?
Furthermore, innovative companies like Google Cloud are making significant strides in the healthcare industry, promising to revolutionize various aspects of medical research, patient care, and administrative operations. They announced the addition of new features to its Vertex AI Search for healthcare companies. This expansion of AI capabilities from Google into healthcare promises to revolutionize multiple areas of medical research, patient care, and administrative operations. Vertex AI Search, with its ability to harness machine learning and natural language processing, is poised to transform the landscape of medical data analysis. Healthcare organizations and life science companies dealing with large and extensive collections of data, including patient records and clinical trial data, can now efficiently extract valuable insights from this wealth of information. This breakthrough holds the potential to lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses, improved treatment strategies, and a deeper understanding of diseases.
In a world filled with different healthcare technology terms such as Health Tech, Medical Devices, Connected Health, Digital Health, Telehealth, Telemedicine, Medtech, and Biotech, it becomes evident that the future of healthcare hinges on embracing innovation across all these domains. If you look at the podcasts or articles regarding the creation of a better future for all in health, the discussions always include a range of topics. It is all part of one industry - healthcare. The holistic approach to healthcare necessitates advancements in technology, devices, connectivity, digital solutions, remote services, medical tools, and biotechnology. By harnessing the power of all these elements, we can create a more efficient and comprehensive healthcare ecosystem that not only treats but also prevents, manages, and improves the well-being of individuals, both inside and outside traditional healthcare settings. The interplay of these various healthcare technologies is set to shape the future of healthcare, ultimately enhancing patient outcomes and healthcare delivery.
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