Telehealth: The Future of Medicine?

Recent technological advancements have changed the way we see things, paving the way for the growth of concepts such as telemedicine, or telehealth, in the field of medical technology. Telehealth is a method of providing clinical healthcare to someone from a distance, by the use of telecommunication and information technology.

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In the not so distant past, telehealth was reserved for treating patients located in remote areas, great distances from healthcare facilities, or locations with a shortage of medical professionals. However, in today’s interconnected world, I believe telehealth is now a most convenient tool for medical care. Its use is no longer limited to overcoming distance barriers or improving access to medical care. Today’s connected patient is interested in saving time by not sitting around in the waiting room to get immediate care for minor but urgent conditions when they arise.

Important Benefits of TeleHealth

Benefits for Patients:

  1. No travel expenses and no time spent waiting around for appointments

  2. Less interference with childcare or eldercare responsibilities

  3. Reduced medical costs provide value to the patient

  4. Extended access to consultations with specialist doctors

Benefits for Providers:

  1. Increased revenue

  2. Fewer missed appointments and cancellations

  3. The ability to treat more patients over time

  4. Better patient follow-up and improved health outcomes

Five Trends in TeleHealth that were prominent in 2017-2018

A report by Mordor Intelligence predicts that global telehealth will be worth more than $66 billion by the end of 2021. Here’s how five telehealth trends will shape the future of the healthcare industry.

  1. Patient Data Collection and Data Analytics: During a telehealth session, patient information is automatically captured by the use of personal tracking devices and mobile apps. Using this data, patient self-monitoring has grown exponentially in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018 and beyond. Some devices track patient ECG’s, sending results to doctors, providing invaluable data for healthcare professionals to monitor cardiovascular activity. Also, big data analytics plays a key role in analyzing data from many patients, helping to improve telehealth treatments as a whole going forward. Patient data collection can help identify risk factors for certain illnesses, assisting physicians with recommending prophylactic treatments.

  2. Mobility and Cloud Access: By 2018/2019, it is estimated that 65 percent of interactions with healthcare facilities will occur with mobile devices. According to a 2015 research2guidance report, 80 percent of doctors already use smartphones and medical apps in their practice. Hospitals and insurance companies now store medical records in the cloud so that patients can access their test results online 24/7. This, in turn, decreases paper usage and saves time. Cloud data warehouses are one way of storing the data securely and efficiently.

  3. Enhanced Security: With the abundance of data being collected from patients to assist with telehealth services, data security is vital. There are different techniques available today to help enhance data security in telehealth, including:

    • Conducting a HIPAA security check once a year to reduce data security risk factors

    • Insisting on encryption of data on all portable devices

    • Conducting more frequent penetration testing and vulnerability assessments of IT systems

4. Better Investment Opportunities: Because telehealth is one of the fastest growing areas in the healthcare industry, we’re seeing a lot of companies investing in it. Mergers between large and small telehealth operators provide financial stability to smaller companies and a platform to provide telehealth effectively. Also, larger telehealth providers are collaborating with international medical institutions, helping spread their expertise abroad, widening the telehealth market, and generating more revenue. Investment opportunities in telehealth will only increase as India and China open their doors to practices from the west.

5. Better Healthcare Apps: In the coming years, we can expect more personalized telehealth apps for both patients and clinicians, with the flexibility to specify information transmitted between doctor and patient. It will definitely help facilitate convenient interactions between patient and care provider.

Telehealth services provide cost-effective treatments and convenience for patients and physicians. Increased prevalence of chronic diseases, technological advancements, particularly in software, and a rise in the aging population are major factors driving massive growth in the industry. Expect to see telehealth become much more prominent in medical care over the coming years, with more patients gaining access to top-quality medical care at their fingertips.

 

Trisha L Jones, CPC

HIM Coding Manager
Healthcare Resource Group

 

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