Telemedicine is not a new word for the healthcare industry. What is more, telemedicine technologies are developing faster than hospitals are able to adopt and implement them. Over the next years, we will see the unprecedented popularity of telemedicine services, the experience of remote treatment will become more effective, safe, and innovative, and the industry itself will develop under the influence of the following trends.
1. Telehealth Technologies Adoption as a Competitive Edge
The telemedicine business model is on the unprecedented rise because of the recent coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has literally forced healthcare providers to use technology more actively, from simple telephone consultations to full-fledged remote treatment experiences. The need to reduce physical contact between infected and uninfected patients and doctors made hospitals adopt telemedicine services more actively, under the influence of a huge number of requests from patients.
Statistically, the number of requests for telemedicine services has increased by 4000% in the US only. And even recent testing of the first coronavirus vaccines will not lead to a decrease in the demand for remote medical services. What’s more, such a service becomes a competitive advantage, and this is the main trend to be aware of. If your hospital still hasn’t adopted any telemedicine technology, now is the best time to start.
2. AI as a Reliable Healthcare Professional Assistant
The potential of artificial intelligence is enormous for both traditional and telemedicine. Its capabilities allow for collecting quality data, structuring it for later analysis, taking into account implicit anomalies, and making highly accurate predictive conclusions. All of these capabilities are essential for telemedicine development since they are effective, cost-cutting, and patient data-driven.
For example, the FDA has already approved the AI-powered system which takes photos of a patient’s retina and then analyses them with the aim of identifying the diabetic-related changes. The software has 87% accuracy. There is also 2020 research dwelling on the possibility to predict COVID-19-related mental health disorders with the help of an AI-powered mobile application.
3. The Use of VR and AR
Virtual and augmented reality is also opening up new opportunities for the healthcare industry. Within telemedicine, these technologies can also be used to treat mental disorders by simulating realistic situations and tracking patient responses. For example, when treating phobias within the framework of remote medicine, the patient can be immersed in an artificially simulated environment, for example, on an airplane if we are dealing with aerophobia.
This simulation will help the patient learn to control emotions and deal with panic attacks. Of course, this approach makes sense only at a certain stage of work with a psychotherapist, when the patient has already worked out the reasons and origins of his/her fears and anxiety states.
4. The Wise Balance of Synchronous and Asynchronous Telehealth Services
Synchronous telemedicine means real-time remote interaction between doctor and patient. The simplest example is online consultation. Asynchronous telemedicine begins with the collection of data, for example, from a patient’s wearable device. Further, after analyzing the information by the combined efforts of the doctor and artificial intelligence, the doctor can make a preliminary diagnosis, schedule an online consultation, and develop a treatment program.
Asynchronous telemedicine will be especially in demand for the treatment of mental disorders, the number of which is only increasing under the influence of the pandemic. This can be both a consequence of the transferred virus and a consequence of information overload and increased anxiety against this background. Such patients will require urgent care.
The experience in providing telemedicine services will be even more effective and innovative when a balance between synchronous and asynchronous telemedicine is achieved.
5. Remote Patient Control and Management
Taking into account the previous trend, as well as the need to minimize human contact and free up more beds in hospitals for critically ill patients, remote monitoring and patient management technologies will be used in both traditional and telemedicine services.
This trend is also directly related to the aging of the population, which will soon become another challenge for the global health system. Doctors will be forced to treat more and more elderly patients for whom chronic and age-related diseases (eg, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks) are typical.
In this case, remote control and management is the only way to provide assistance to all those in need, by intelligently dividing patients who need urgent treatment, or maybe under remote supervision.
There is no doubt that telemedicine is the future of healthcare. Pandemic-related challenges have become the powerful drivers for the telemedicine technologies development, and the adoption of the latter may become quite a strong competitive edge for modern hospitals. What’s more, modern patients are ready for telemedicine best practices since this way of receiving medical services is the safest to date.