Telehealth: Tools to Help in the Fight Against Coronavirus

IoT technologies allow medical professionals to provide remote clinical services to patients, bringing better healthcare options to more people at a lower cost. Telehealth services are critical to reducing the spread of diseases like the flu and coronavirus, and they will continue to grow as more patients demand remote care. 

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Image credit: American Well

 

Digital health technologies are gaining momentum because they can allow consumers to make more informed decisions about their own health. They also offer clinicians new ways to address disease prevention, early diagnosis, and care management in non-traditional settings, such as at home.

The use of IoT technologies in telehealth can bridge the gap between a doctor’s office and a patient’s home and save both valuable time and money. For example, telemedicine enables virtual doctor visits via computers and smart devices. It can be very helpful to patients in more remote areas and those who need consistent monitoring for chronic conditions. 

Telemedicine will also play a role in reducing exposure to patients potentially infected with the flu, coronavirus, or other infectious diseases. It allows doctors to confer with patients without requiring face-to-face interactions, saving the patient from coming into contact with other people and limiting the healthcare professional’s exposure to the disease. 

Telehealth encompasses a broad set of technologies that enable the remote delivery of healthcare services and support non-clinical activities. These include software and technologies that assist in diagnosis, treatment options, maintaining and sharing health records, and workflow management that can lead to more efficient clinical practices.

The Emergence of Digital Healthcare

While telehealth encompasses all aspects of digital healthcare, telemedicine focuses on interactions between the patient and the doctor(s). The most common types of telemedicine are:

Interactive Medicine. Patients and physicians can communicate in real-time, using secure video or audio connections. Physicians can talk with patients without requiring an office visit, which can be especially important in rural or remote areas, or when seeking specialists.

Store and Forward. Healthcare providers can share patient information, such as digital images, with a practitioner in another location. This collaboration allows medical professionals to discuss a patient’s diagnosis and treatment options within or across fields of practice. The use of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered devices can take things a step further by identifying potential issues in X-rays and prioritizing them for further medical review.

Remote Patient Monitoring. Patients use mobile medical devices to collect and send data to remote caregivers. Patients who wear a heart-rate monitor, for example, can transmit the data collected to a doctor’s office for review. In remote care situations the analyzed data from wearable devices can trigger automatic actions, such releasing insulin to a diabetic patient with low glucose levels. 

Similarly, some hospitals use fitness trackers to monitor activity levels of patients recovering from knee replacements or heart surgery. The fitness tracker can alert a doctor to a patient’s declining mobility, which could be a sign of trouble. Analytics are also helping to predict which surgical patients are likely to return to the hospital after discharge.

Better Healthcare to More People

The U.S. telehealth services market has grown an average of 25 percent each year between 2015 and 2020 and is expected to be a $2.6 billion market in 2020, according to IBISWorld researchers. The rise of telehealth is in large part due to IoT applications and devices built with Intel®-based technology and innovations, including app-based patient portals that support remote home care, text communications, and proactive health management.

People are eagerly embracing the shift. Not surprisingly, millennials lead the charge. One survey shows that millennials are three times more likely to have tried telehealth, and more than 40 percent would like to use it for behavioral health services. The same study indicates that millennials are the most likely to switch to a physician who offers virtual care. Cost is a big factor for this age group, so showing how telehealth can reduce medical fees is critical. 

On the other end of the age spectrum, a survey conducted by Home Health Care News indicates about 66 percent of older adults said they were willing to use telehealth tools, but only 8 percent already have. As the baby boomers age, more people will require medical care for chronic health issues. That presents a huge opportunity for healthcare providers—and the system integrators who work with them. 

As telehealth services continue to expand, protecting patient health information will become even more critical. IoT and Intel®-based technologies can support these efforts by enabling providers to assess risks, establish regulatory compliance, and roll out the necessary security solutions, without sacrificing health care services. 

Learn more about how Intel is helping healthcare organizations improve patient outcomes, lower costs, and create efficiencies with IoT.