Telemedicine solution providers inspired by the age of mobility
Telemedicine isn’t a new topic. First surfacing in healthcare and technology news spheres in 2008, the term was used to describe a mobile application released by American Well that connected users with a limited network of healthcare providers. While conceptually beneficial, telemedicine solution providers trying to implement solutions in the intervening years have struggled on a practical level due to inconsistency in acceptable security standards and a lack of mainstream adoption of the various mobile application platforms.
However, the healthcare industry has experienced significant reforms and healthcare business models have faced extreme levels of disruption in recent years. Driving these reforms are factors such as an aging population demanding improved care standards, as well as the proliferation of mobile devices and Internet access in both developed and developing countries. The reforms have inspired a rush of entrepreneurs, investors, and startups to rethink how healthcare is executed in markets with both high-cost healthcare systems and low-cost markets with poor access. In rethinking business strategies, traditional providers have become telemedicine solution providers willing to embrace the flexibility and mobility afforded by telemedicine at a foundational level.
In part one of this series, we will explore how technology has evolved to allow telemedicine to become a viable healthcare solution. Part 2 of the series focuses on the challenges faced by the industry and the benefits accrued from the technology.
What makes telemedicine solution providers successful?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “telehealth is the use of technology to deliver health care, health information, or health education at a distance.” Telemedicine solution providers seek to address some of the common applications of telehealth, which fall into two general categories: real-time communication and store-and-forward. Whether it’s providing health services practitioners with access to continuing professional education courses or home monitoring of vital statistics, telemedicine solutions generally can be seen as increasing the quality of the contact between patients and the healthcare system.
A telemedicine software solution should encompass five key features
1. It must allow real-time remote consultations to take place between patients and service providers
2. It must allow the remote monitoring of vital statistics and conditions
3. Providers and patients must be able to store and forward this data through the software platform
4. The platform must allow for users to procure specialized services from service providers
5. Finally, the platform must allow access to pertinent information for both patients and service providers
It’s vital that telemedicine solution providers be able to coordinate with IT professionals throughout the healthcare field to ensure high quality communication and efficient data transfer of patient information. Through coordinated data generation, it’s assured that a standard quality of information can be shared to service providers, regardless whether that data is sourced from disparate remote medical devices or unrelated medical databases. This remains a challenge however, as recent legislation introduced in the Congressional House aims to accelerate interoperability of electronic health records, but according to the American Telemedicine Association, calls for more studies to be performed rather than promoting progress and forward momentum in the field.
Real world solutions provided by telemedicine solution providers
Now that technological capabilities are catching up to the vision of successful entrepreneurs and startups in the field of telemedicine, the key features above are being integrated into very successful real-world solutions.
- A Boston-based program gave 3000 heart failure patients monitoring equipment that could be used to track weight, blood pressure, and related metrics from their homes. The patients were divided into groups of 250, each group overseen by a team of four nurses. Through communication and monitoring, the teams of nurses were able to reduce readmissions by 44% while generating cost savings upwards of $10 million.
In another study performed by the Center for Connected Health, it was shown that patients using pill bottles fitted with wireless technology and set to remind them to use their blood pressure medicine increased adherence by 68 percent.
Seattle-based Carena recently secured $13.3 million in funding in order to support their virtual clinic services, which allow for online checkups.
SnapMD offers its users a cloud-based telemedicine service with fully HIPAA-compliant encrypted online communications via video, audio, and messaging. The service integrates into a single interface the issuance of prescriptions, insurance claim filing, coverage verification, and client medical history storage.
Pager allows users in New York City to schedule in-home visits with an extensive network of local doctors. This adds two essential elements to users’ healthcare experiences: convenience and flexibility.
Challenges Ahead for Telemedicine Solution Providers?
Having established what sorts of applications and uses telemedicine solutions lend themselves towards, we will dedicate Part 2 in this series to the challenges faced by telemedicine solution providers in the adoption of telemedicine applications, as well as the benefits of instituting such programs for both service providers and clients alike.