Coronavirus and the Future of Telehealth

The Pandemic has forced us to think differently about patient care

I recently read a fascinating article in Wired Magazine about how Telemedicine and Telehealth Providers have been forced to adapt to the current situation. We all follow the proverbial rules when it comes to playing the patient – we feel unwell, we book an appointment, and we go visit the doctor. This is obviously very generalised, but you get the familiar picture.

There has been an inherent need for a very tactile patient/doctor relationship, due mainly to the lack of technology available in the past to facilitate a meaningful consultation without the need for a face-to-face appointment.

Zooming towards the Digital Doctor

It could be argued that Zoom has won big in the coronavirus age in terms of brand awareness and number of users. From a telehealth perspective, it seems the consensus is that the video quality has become much better on the platform for telemedicine providers.

However, having read the article, and from my own research, it seems that the overriding sentiment, in relation to telehealth platforms, is one of frustration. Keeping in line with the aforementioned proverbials, patients would much rather just go to a place where they know they can get care and unfortunately for a lot of them, that means A&E or Doctor’s Surgery.

If we think about this from a resource perspective, front line healthcare workers are already at breaking point due to COVID-19. If patients are needlessly making appointments, or going to A&E, the focus on those who genuinely need attended to is diluted and those patients in need may suffer as a result.

The pandemic has forced people to communicate differently. The same can be said for how they communicate with Healthcare Professionals – basically people have had to try telemedicine for the first time.

What are the challenges?

The healthcare system is incredibly complex, and the needs of the patient is so diverse that each case must be reviewed on its own merit. Of course there will be symptoms that will be easily identifiable to the trained eye, but care must be taken to ensure diagnosis is accurate. Telemedicine will only be effective if it is part of the bigger patient picture. There will be certain instances where a diagnosis can be made on a video call but, conversely, there will also be more complicated ailments that will require further, more detailed investigation. The ongoing discussions around Wearables and Internet of Things will have a huge impact on telemedicine. There is no doubt that the advances being made in connected devices and Wearables will provide a more complete picture for Doctors and Healthcare Professionals therefore limiting the need for face-to-face visits and enhancing the value of telehealth. However, that is another blog post for another day – but we have a lot to say on this!

What are the Opportunities?

Back to the matter at hand. The perfect scenario is having the ability to securely share patient data so that important information is easily accessible at any stage pre, during or post treatment/consultation. The ability to work alongside legacy systems is another consideration. Instead of having to oversee an entire overhaul, video-conferencing solutions should work with existing setups, making them far more scalable and cost-effective.

In addition, implementing these solutions must be safe and simple. So, while Zoom is certainly well known, there are other providers out there who can offer secure and user-friendly alternatives with a serious amount of capability. Pexip is a prime example of a provider that offers security-first, enterprise-grade video conferencing solutions using industry-standard encryption and security protocols to maintain privacy and security. ISDM Solutions works with a number of partners and specialise in Telehealth. Being vendor agnostic allows ISDM to offer expert and informed advice to ensure the right solution is considered, giving a more meaningful user experience for better patient outcomes.

What next?

You’ve probably heard this a million times by now – “everything will change after this.” That may be the case, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How we communicate and share information has evolved as advances in technology meet and exceed the demand for quicker and more user-friendly solutions.

As of 2019, the telemedicine global market was valued at around 45 billion U.S. dollars. The market is expected to grow significantly by 2026 and is expected to be valued at more than 175 billion U.S. dollars at that time. 

If that doesn’t paint a picture, I don’t know what does.

Eamon Lenehan

Chief Marketing Officer