Technology has completely transformed the majority of industries worldwide over the last few decades. The onset of modern and innovative technological advancements have made a noteworthy difference in the medical field and has made telemedicine a game-changing way to serve people.
A 2019 survey found that 79% of respondents perceived telemedicine as more convenient in terms of scheduling, 83% felt that the care was as good or better than an in-person visit, and 66% felt personally connected to their telehealth practitioner.
So you know that telehealth refers to the use of technology to provide healthcare from a distance. But how does telehealth actually work? What kinds of equipment and devices do healthcare providers need to execute it? Most people have access to basic telecommunications technology, like the internet, telephones and computers. But many telemedicine solutions require more equipment than just those basics.
In this piece, we will be looking at a few ways telehealth integration with medical devices is transforming healthcare delivery like never before.
As telehealth undergoes rapid development and matures— from a substitute for better access in limited-care settings to integrated routine care, reimbursement and management across the care continuum—it will also continue to advance in quality, efficiency and financial sustainability. Interoperability is the key to making that happen.
One excellent example of this is a medical mobile device which is often used by either healthcare professionals or patients to capture medical data and send it to a medical professional at another location.
Say, if a patient has just had a heart attack and is being remotely monitored after being discharged from a hospital, he/she may need a mobile ECG device to track their heart activity. Some providers also use software as a medical device within their telehealth platforms.
Some telehealth service providers offer packages with basic mobile medical devices, while some others require purchase of a patient monitoring system.
This type of telemedicine equipment might look like a handheld console that displays before patients a series of questions, tracks their responses, and then shares the data with a physician via an internet connection. Certain mobile medical devices might include an ECG device or a vital signs monitor.
In the case of store-and-forward telehealth solutions, where a healthcare provider is examining a patient at one location and needs to share visual medical information with a doctor at another location, the equipment happens to be far more advanced.
Other than mobile devices, telehealth providers offer a wide range of medical scopes that have integrated audio and visual recording devices. Some scopes allow the provider to capture images of the exam and then share with other devices via a USB port. Digital stethoscopes let physicians record and share a patient’s heart and lung sounds.
As COVID-19 spreads, healthcare providers are leveraging telehealth to protect patients and staff. Ninety-seven percent of healthcare leaders have expanded telehealth access since the pandemic, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association.
Telehealth has been crucial for screening and treating COVID-19 cases from afar, but it’s also facilitating routine visits that would be risky or complicated during quarantine.
The temporary shifts have paved the way for telehealth expansion and displayed before us how when this technology is integrated with medical devices, it can make care more accessible and streamlined even in remote regions.
For instance, medical devices such as glucometers, oximeters, and wearables; when used in conjunction with a telehealth platform, can boost convenience, improve care and disease management, and reduce hospitalization rates for high-risk adults in senior housing communities.
This has also reduced the demand for hospital beds and supplies by keeping low-risk patients at home and helping medical systems from becoming overwhelmed.
Making the Transition to Value-based Care Seamless
As the healthcare industry undergoes rapid transformation, the ultimate goal always remains to be that of ameliorating the quality of care being delivered. The shift from volume-based care to value-based care is oftentimes hampered by existing economic, racial and geographic disparities that can hinder access to medical treatment.
Until now, patients primarily used telehealth in a way that was similar to urgent care — they needed a diagnosis as soon as possible and would consult with a doctor who wasn’t their primary care provider on short notice. In the wake of the coronavirus, telehealth is expanding rapidly and is now being used for all types of routine medical visits in various specialties, from dermatology to endocrinology.
A rapid shift to integrated telehealth solutions could improve access for marginalized groups faced with the double challenge of limited resources and poor connectivity.
Using medical devices on telehealth platforms can not only lower the cost associated with individual visits and make accessing care more convenient, but it can also support access to care for those who are otherwise unable to receive it, keep patients regularly engaged with their own health, and, ultimately, improve health outcomes. This, in turn, helps care providers build stronger relationships with patients, not more fragmented ones.