The Future of Telemedicine in 2022 and Beyond

Dr. Michelle Frank

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October 24, 2022
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

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While the pandemic highlighted the inefficiencies in healthcare globally, it facilitated the fine-tuning of telemedicine to build a more equitable infrastructure.

In simple terms, telehealth or telemedicine is the use of technology to dispense healthcare products and services. 

When user needs are understood, telemedicine can help make healthcare more accessible and reduce the overall costs incurred. While it will not replace in-person interactions between doctors and patients completely, it can work as a tool to help ease the burden on the healthcare system.

Throughout this article, we will explore the benefits of telemedicine and the latest trends highlighting the future of telehealth.

Is Telemedicine Effective In Treating Patients?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least half the world’s population is unable to access basic healthcare1. Related to this, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because of the health care expenses they incur. 

During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that 41% of US adults2 delayed receiving medical care due to their concerns related to the risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus through travel and in-person meetings.

These situations alone highlight the importance of having telehealth services in place. Telemedicine enables physicians to oversee and manage health conditions without physically being there. For many who are unable to travel repeatedly due to physical or geographical constraints, a robust telehealth infrastructure can ensure the delivery of healthcare for them.

For patients with chronic healthcare concerns, such as diabetes or kidney disease, telemedicine can help with regular follow-ups and updates on prescriptions. Routine test results, such as sugar levels or blood creatinine levels, can also be uploaded to a cloud and stored without the hassle of continually referencing previous reports or prescriptions.

Various characteristics of telemedicine used in healthcare
Domains in which telemedicine can be most useful in treating patients
Image sourced from ‘Telemedicine for healthcare’ from the journal Sensors International (Volume 2, 2021)

Additionally, from a treatment perspective, the use of technology can also chart vital stats that ideally would be overseen within a home setting. These include calorie consumption, spikes in sugar level, newly developed coughs, blood pressure, heart rate, or the new onset of symptoms.

Telemedicine also lightens the burden of administrative tasks that healthcare professionals might face, as technological systems can be automated and updated per session3. This frees up more time for much-needed patient care. Physicians can also share records with other healthcare professionals if a referral is required on a case, without having to highlight in detail vital case points. Specialists from around the globe can be accessed, without long waiting times. 

This enables a more patient-centric diagnosis and management course, which is often a prime concern with the use of technology in healthcare. Telemedicine also encourages individuals to take more ownership of their health. By providing them with 24-hour access to healthcare professionals, other aspects of their health, including their mental health, can receive the attention it requires.

What Are The Benefits Of Telemedicine?

For one, as mentioned earlier, telemedicine makes healthcare more accessible. Simple check-ups can now be done more seamlessly over a smart device. Additionally, telemedicine allows healthcare to reach the underserved, who often suffer due to limited accessibility4

According to a 2019 analysis conducted by the UnitedHealth Group, an estimated 18 million visits to the ER are avoidable5. A trip to the ER can cost a massive bill of $2000 or more, which is several times costlier than a physician visit. Additionally, wait times for being seen and the travel to the ER itself can be tedious or stressful. Telemedicine can minimize these time and costs tremendously, both for the healthcare system and patients.

If a medical case requires immediate attention, a trained medical professional can guide an individual to the nearest hospital. This maintains a much-needed funnel, especially during situations such as the pandemic where healthcare delivery has greater-than-normal limitations.

Telemedicine also enables patients to understand the nuances of their health through a more holistic overview. Having real-time results and simplified methods of displaying data, technology can enable more usable information on basic health concerns. For those living with chronic health conditions6, telehealth systems can provide access to dieticians, fitness experts, and mental health counselors to guide them on various facets of their health.

Is There A Future For Telemedicine?

According to current trends, the global telemedicine market is expected to reach $30.12 billion market size by 20267. The pandemic has hastened the requirement of telehealth systems to adapt themselves to suit the current healthcare needs.

A few concerns still need to be worked out, which include patient confidentiality and data accuracy. Since the system runs on the data it receives, it requires constant upgrades to suit evolving needs. 

While telemedicine technology aims to reduce administrative work, it will take some time for healthcare professionals to integrate this form of healthcare delivery into their practice. This means building more user-intuitive systems both for doctors and patients8. Overall, this will reduce the chances of missed appointments; increase the follow-up rate, especially for long-term patients; and provide more real-time updates on health.

The increasing need for telemedicine will also require more innovation. This would mean more connections with IoT devices and employing newer technology that can provide more accessible remote medical assistance, such as utilizing robotic technology9.

Technology is also capable of understanding how patient care can be improved by analyzing data on doctor-patient interactions10. This can encourage further research into aspects of patient relationships that can be improved as well as management requirements for various medical conditions. 

Younger, tech-savvy healthcare professionals will also be able to incorporate more flexibility into their professional careers through the use of telehealth. They will be able to work remotely and associate with more healthcare centers across the globe. This helps to improve workflow efficiency and overall patient satisfaction with the experience.

Conclusion

With the adoption of more technology for healthcare delivery, there will be more improvement to the patient delivery process with time. The tools of technology continually adapt to enhance future experiences for both healthcare providers and the patient.

Companies building telehealth services aim to reduce costs and improve the overall health of the population. Telemedicine is already bridging the gaps healthcare delivery has faced. It will have to take a few more strides to reach the more tech-deprived areas to facilitate access to healthcare services. 

With the use of wearable technology and smart devices, our health is literally in our hands. Telehealth further allows access to health services from any corner of the globe improving doctor-patient relationships without compromising the quality of healthcare.

References
  1. World Bank and WHO (2017, December 13). Half the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news/item/13-12-2017-world-bank-and-who-half-the-world-lacks-access-to-essential-health-services-100-million-still-pushed-into-extreme-poverty-because-of-health-expenses[]
  2. Czeisler, M. É., Marynak, K., Clarke, K. E. N., Salah, Z., Shakya, I., Thierry, J. M., Ali, N., McMillan, H., Wiley, J. F., Weaver, M. D., Czeisler, C. A., Rajaratnam, S. M. W., & Howard, M. E. (2020) Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19–Related Concerns — United States, June 2020. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(36), 1250–1257. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6936a4.htm []
  3. Howland, C., Despins, L., Sindt, J., Wakefield, B., & Mehr, D. R. (2020). Primary Care Clinic Nurse Activities with a Telehealth Monitoring System. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 43(1), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193945920923082 []
  4. Butzner, M., & Cuffee, Y. (2021). Telehealth Interventions and Outcomes Across Rural Communities in the United States: Narrative Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(8), e29575. https://doi.org/10.2196/29575 []
  5. UnitedHealth Group. (2021). The High Cost of Avoidable Hospital Emergency Department Visits. https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/newsroom/posts/2019-07-22-high-cost-emergency-department-visits.html[]
  6. Corbett, J. A., Opladen, J. M., & Bisognano, J. D. (2020). Telemedicine can revolutionize the treatment of chronic disease. International Journal of Cardiology. Hypertension, 7, 100051. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijchy.2020.100051 []
  7. Research And Markets. (2019). Global Telemedicine Markets, 2016–2019 & 2026 Forecast - ResearchAndMarkets.com. (2019). Business Wire. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191120005755/en/Global-Telemedicine-Markets-2016-2019-2026-Forecast---ResearchAndMarkets.com[]
  8. Seifert, A., Batsis, J. A., & Smith, A. C. (2020). Telemedicine in Long-Term Care Facilities During and Beyond COVID-19: Challenges Caused by the Digital Divide. Frontiers in Public Health, 8, 601595. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.601595 []
  9. Bhaskar, S., Bradley, S., Sakhamuri, S., Moguilner, S., Chattu, V. K., Pandya, S., Schroeder, S., Ray, D., & Banach, M. (2020). Designing Futuristic Telemedicine Using Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the COVID-19 Era. Frontiers in Public Health, 8, 556789. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.556789 []
  10. Butow, P., & Hoque, E. (2020). Using artificial intelligence to analyze and teach communication in healthcare. Breast (Edinburgh, Scotland), 50, 49–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.breast.2020.01.008 []

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