The healthcare industry is currently one of the fastest-growing industries on the market. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, one of its branches, due to its specificity and wide range of applications, has gained particular popularity – TeleHealth. The market size of telehealth was valued at USD 83.5 billion globally and it’s expected to grow by 24% globally from 2023 to 2030 at a compound annual growth rate. What makes it a future direction? What are the telehealth development forecasts for 2023?
What is Telehealth?
The definition of telehealth refers to it as providing virtual medical services with the use of telecommunication technologies. It includes everything from the electronic delivery of patient health information and prescriptions to remote interactions between patients and doctors in different locations. Telehealth is a healthcare delivery process, usually using such communication technologies as the internet, video conferencing, streaming media, and so on.
Telehealth – facts and myths
Until recently, no one could imagine providing medical services online or over the phone. The 21st century has changed this dramatically. Unfortunately, due to the fact that this sector is still relatively new, a lot of myths and misconceptions have accumulated around it. In the beginning, it’s worth checking what’s actually the truth about them and getting to know the healthtech area a little better.
Myth #1: TeleHealth is new, untested, and cannot be trusted.
Fact: It is true that telehealth began to appear in patients’ awareness only recently, and gained its popularity mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic and its dynamic development. However, its actual birth can be considered much earlier. According to the definition of telehealth, referring to it as the provision of medical services at a distance, we can include all attempts at remote treatment in this category. The first documented mention of remote prescriptions dates back to 1726 when some woman was writing letters to her doctor about her health condition, and in response, he was prescribing her medications and describing methodologies of treatment.
In the second half of the 19th century, during the industrial revolution in England, there was a breakthrough also in the field of telehealth. New remote communication tools, such as the telegraph and telephone, have enabled medical professionals to diagnose patients more accurately at a distance. Thanks to the possibility of sending images (also X-rays) by telegraph, teleradiology had its beginning here.
But the first surgical operation performed remotely took place on September 7, in the year 2001. During this operation, (which was called “Operation Lindbergh”), the medical operator was in New York while the patient was in Strasburg at the time!
Telehealth has a very wide application – from simple online medical consultations to complex telemedical MRI descriptions based on hard data, as well as remote monitoring of astronauts’ vital signs in space developed by NASA.
Myth #2: A reliable diagnosis can only be made on the basis of an on-site medical examination.
Fact: It is a fact that some branches of medicine require the physical presence of the patient in the doctor’s office – such as, for example, orthopedics. But even here telemedicine has its application – e.g. in the case of post-operative rehabilitation.
A great example is a mobile app that we created based on our client’s idea, thanks to which the patient is diagnosed and then receives an individually customized therapy session, which consists of appropriately selected rehabilitation exercises to be performed at home. The idea behind it is to help patients in the same effective way as a visit to a physiotherapist.
With the openness of both the patient and the doctor to this form of diagnosis and treatment, it’s now possible to effectively treat almost half of the cases. With the development of the HealthTech and MedTech industries, this number will continue to grow. Probably, the remote form of diagnosing and treating patients will never fully replace the traditional form, but it can be perfect as a supplement to it.
Myth #3: Telemedicine is good only for treating mild cases.
Fact: Just as in the case of a traditional clinic visit, the doctor is not always able to make a diagnosis without ordering additional tests, so in the case of a telemedicine consultation it’s done the same way. In case of sudden and life-threatening symptoms, telemedicine of course can’t replace a visit to the hospital. However, it can also be quite helpful here – thanks to the current access to information and treatment history, which is possible thanks to telemedicine, the doctor can react much faster and more effectively than, for example, an operator sending the ambulance.
Thanks to modern medical equipment equipped with applications for measuring and analyzing data, such as blood pressure monitors, ECG recorders, and others, more and more tests can be performed online, regardless of the distance between the doctor and the patient.
Myth #4: Using telehealth services is not safe.
Fact: In HealthTech industry, security and data protection are extremely important. The doctor conducting the online examination is obliged to use HIPAA-compliant software and maintain the confidentiality of sensitive patient data as in the case of an in-office visit. You can learn more about data security in the HealthTech industry by reading one of our previous articles on this topic.
Telehealth trends and innovations for 2023
As the branch of telehealth is constantly evolving, we can expect more and more improvements and innovations introduced in this field in the nearest future. The telehealth industry is constantly evolving and healthcare organizations should be prepared for changes.
Greater participation of AI and ML in remote healthcare services
It’s predicted that in 2023 the participation of Artificial Intelligence technology, as well as Machine Learning in telehealth will be increased due to its growing popularity and extent thanks to their wide range of applications. What’s more, recent studies proved that these solutions are able to help healthcare companies to reduce their operational costs even by 30%. With the use of AI, healthcare providers can introduce many improvements like for example an automatic schedule of appointments, track patients’ progress, or create patients’ treatment plans in a more personalized way. On the other hand, Machine Learning can be helpful, for example, in an early diagnosis of a patient’s disease. To learn more about this topic, read our previous article about the impact of ML on the HealthTech industry.
A Tele-Intensive Care Unit is a system for monitoring and remotely providing care for patients that are critically ill. In order to do that, it uses video, two-way audio, and real-time remote data monitoring. Tele-ICU has an access to all data available in EHR, and also all vital signs and other information from the bedside monitor of a patient, like heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure, and more. The greatest advantage of the tele-ICU systems is that it drastically reduces mortality rates among ICU patients thanks to the accelerated reaction time of clinicians to changes in a patient’s health condition. In the future, personalized, patient-oriented intensive care with the usage of healthcare technology will become commonplace. The Tele-ICUs market is expected to grow to USD 5 billion by the year 2028.
Bigger integration of EHR
Next year we will also see some innovations in the field of remote patient monitoring with the use of Electronic Health Records. So far we could observe that lack of integration with existing EHR was quite a big challenge for the telehealth industry. According to the predictions for the year 2023, this issue is expected to be slowly changing. Greater EHR integration will allow healthcare providers for easier access to the patient’s data and thus, more coordinated healthcare processes. What’s more, thanks to the integration, patients will be able to access their health information from any device, which makes tracking progress much more convenient and efficient.
Increased chronic care management
Another major change that telehealth will bring next year is a greater focus on chronic diseases, which affect about a third of adults. Many of these diseases could be prevented or treated by implementing preventive care methods into patients’ lives or lifestyle habits. Most patients don’t follow their treatment, don’t refill their prescriptions, or don’t meet the doctor regularly to have their disease symptoms under control. The potential of telehealth is here invaluable because it can not only increase patients’ engagement and adherence to their treatment but it can also reduce the costs of a care plan. Long queues to the doctor’s office or the cost of regular commuting to hospitals and doctors won’t be a problem anymore. Telehealth will enable patients to contact their doctors in an easy and quick way. Thanks to more frequent and regular interactions any problems can be detected early enough so that the risk of further complications will be lower.
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TeleHealth – a part of a post-pandemic reality
It’s not surprising that the pandemic has definitely accelerated the adaptation of telehealth solutions and virtual care to traditional healthcare and completely transformed the healthcare system. But can the new healthcare technology trends and remote solutions completely replace traditional medicine? I don’t think so, but it could be a perfect complement to it. Technology can be very useful in this area, helping relieve overcrowded hospitals and all healthcare organizations, relieving the budget of state medical care, saving patients’ time and nerves, and improving patient health and lives.