This past year wasn’t easy, and many have suffered as a result of the COVID pandemic. Yet, there have been a handful of medical advancements thanks to the pandemic, and those advancements are likely to benefit society for years to come.
Though telehealth has been an available since a few years now, patients’ and providers’ widespread reliance on this digital medical tool during the pandemic has forced telehealth developers to make important improvements to their services. Here are a few important updates to telehealth solutions that have occurred through 2020 that are likely to continue benefiting patients and providers into the future.
Paramedicine is the field of emergency medicine, in which providers administer life-saving aid to those experiencing health crises. Unfortunately, a problem arises when paramedics are far from an emergency scene and unable to administer care in the intervening time. The solution is teleparamedicine, which connects someone experiencing a medical emergency with a qualified paramedic via the internet. With increased access to teleparamedicine, those experiencing life-threatening health crises — or those in their vicinity — can bridge the gap between the beginning of an emergency and the arrival of qualified paramedics.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Many health conditions require consistent monitoring of specific health metrics, but it doesn’t make much sense for patients to remain in doctor’s offices for hours, days or months on end. In the past, providers expected patients to track their own metrics, but patient measurements aren’t always as reliable as they need to be for accurate health data.
Fortunately, advancements in telehealth have allowed for the development of remote monitoring tools, which can be installed by health care professionals and take reliable measurements without human interference. Some monitoring tools connect to the internet, sending their data periodically to providers; others must have their data physically downloaded by providers after a monitoring period is complete. In either case, remote monitoring gives patients and providers more peace of mind regarding the accuracy of important medical information.
Online Addiction Treatment
More often, substance abuse is being managed as a mental health disorder as opposed to personal criminal deviance, which means those afflicted by addiction are given health care instead of jail time. Yet, addiction treatment isn’t easy for everyone to access; substance abuse treatment centers can be expensive, far away or too time-consuming for those who must juggle the management of their disorder with earning income or caring for loved ones. The solution, then, is online addiction treatment, which is accessible to anyone with a connected device. Websites like everydaydoctor.com have qualified counselors trained to help those grappling with substance abuse, which can make treatment more realistic for many.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI promises to improve essentially every industry by introducing fast and powerful computation to solve difficult problems. In the field of telemedicine, AI can be deployed to analyze large amounts of health data and suggest diagnoses, treatment plans, prognoses and more. Advanced AI tools can function as chatbots with patients to collect information about the patient and their current condition before their virtual visit. In the future, AI might replace living, breathing health care providers entirely in some cases where patients are experiencing minor health issues that can be resolved through basic care, like a common prescription.
Security is a top-tier concern in the medical field because patients are guaranteed the privacy of their health information. Unfortunately, most information exchanges over the web come with security risks, and telemedicine services have been subject to data breaches and leaks in the past. Fortunately, improved cybersecurity practices, products and protocols are making it easier for health care providers to offer telehealth solutions securely.
While many might have predicted the development of better remote care devices or the application of advanced tech to telemedicine, the idea that consolidation could improve telemedicine could be surprising. Within the health care field, consolidation occurs between different types of care providers; it helps providers afford the costs of managing a business and navigating state and national health care regulations. More and more frequently, providers are consolidating with telehealth firms, which means they can gain greater access to patients without the expense of developing their own remote care solutions.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the most impactful update to telemedicine in 2020 is Medicare’s expanded coverage of telehealth services. Because so many Americans rely on Medicare for health insurance, access to telehealth skyrocketed with the expanded coverage. Many state Medicaid programs are also expanding their telehealth coverage, which will likely drive private insurance providers to update their telehealth support, as well. When the costs of telehealth are reduced through insurance, more patients will immediately turn to this solution, improving health care access and health outcomes across the country.
Telemedicine isn’t new, but new developments are radically increasing its practicality, its accessibility and its features. Most patients and providers are likely to engage in telehealth in some capacity over the next few years as a result of these and future updates.