It has been clear for several years now that telemedicine would be playing a larger and larger role in the overall healthcare industry as it became better accepted by insurance carriers and by medical professionals. Telemedicine is a practice which has been constantly evolving and developing, carried along on a wave of emerging technologies. Although it will undoubtedly continue to evolve, it is already possible to take a glimpse into the future to see what telemedicine will look like over the next several years.
Machine learning will help to solve one of the biggest drawbacks to virtual healthcare: scalability. Since virtual care is not inherently scalable, and this has been a limitation for more than 20 years, something has been needed to make better use of the clinical workforce when it’s necessary to remotely monitor patients. Historically, a rather large workforce has been necessary to support the telemedicine process from end to end and this has detracted from its usefulness and practicality.
Some companies have conducted major research and development in this area so they can provide solutions which make better use of the clinical workforce. By automatically tracking patient baselines, machine learning software can determine whether or not patients are improving in their overall health status. This upgrades the scalability factor by seven or eight times, making telemedicine much more practical.
In some situations, chatbots have already proven ideal for virtual patient management. As an example, a study which focused on increasing mental health issues among youth showed surprising results for those patients that communicated routinely with a chatbot. These patients exhibited a 45% decrease in depression symptoms and their adherence to prescribed medications increased by a factor of 10. While this certainly doesn’t mean that all healthcare should be delivered by chatbots, it does point out the value of using them in specific situations.
In the study referenced above, the mental health patients indicated a pronounced preference for consulting with the chatbot as opposed to a human. Most sessions occurred between 10 p.m. and the wee hours of the morning. Many of the topics for discussion would be considered highly sensitive or possibly taboo which explains the user’s preference for talking with an inanimate care provider.
It is expected that artificial intelligence (AI) will be highly impactful on telemedicine in the coming years. Working in tandem with machine learning, artificial intelligence engines will assume many of the duties now handled by primary care doctors. An AI engine will have the capability of remotely guiding patients through a series of questions which are very similar to those posed by physicians and other care providers during office visits.
The big difference will be that an AI engine will already be aware of some aspects of patient history and will tailor questions accordingly, avoiding questions which other providers have already asked. An AI engine will also have the capability of examining a patient’s general health condition through observation and will take into account information provided by home monitoring devices and wearable sensors. It’s even possible that AI engines will have the capability of administering blood tests, with the results stored by the AI engine for later review.
There will be a line drawn which AI cannot cross for the foreseeable future in terms of diagnosing patients and prescribing medications for them. However, AI engines can certainly make recommendations to a doctor about what kind of ailment the patient might have after reviewing symptoms and comparing it to the existing database of such symptoms. It could also recommend certain medications to the doctor since it will have access to the information of many thousands of similar patients exhibiting the same kind of symptoms.
More Sensors, More Proactive Patients
Sensor technologies are one of the areas improving most rapidly. New types of sensors will be used for remote monitoring to a greater degree in households, triggering more proactive patient involvement. The combination of new sensors, greater analytics and better telemedicine processes will spark a change from passive healthcare to proactive healthcare as health problems are detected.
One great example of this is the Apple Watch which has the ability to detect cardiac issues and instantly inform a medical professional. Within minutes, a patient can be contacted and an intervention can be initiated to stave off any serious problem. This transition to more proactive healthcare is expected to profoundly affect the medical industry and all aspects of healthcare.
Genomic therapy is expected to provide a capability for more personalized healthcare to individuals, based on characteristics of their genetic makeup. Patients would have to travel to the nearest medical center equipped with genomic sequencing tools to establish their genetic makeup after which doctors would be able to confer and quickly diagnose patient problems. Because the genetic makeup of a patient provides key information about how they will respond to various therapies, doctors can significantly reduce the time needed for diagnosis.
Telemedicine over the next several years will undoubtedly provide an experience for patients and physicians which will be much closer to an actual in-person session. There are already some telehealth platforms which have been provided with state-of-the-art functionality, capable of closely examining a patient’s appearance and capturing sounds and images of the body. Emerging technology will make telemedicine one of the most important aspects of healthcare, especially given the fact that there is a growing shortage of qualified physicians in this country.
Explore Telemedicine for Your Ophthalmology Practice
Telemedicine services designed for ophthalmology are being developed and it is anticipated that they will be offered soon. If your ophthalmology practice is interested in exploring telemedicine, but you are not sure how to start, Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration, may be able to help. Utilizing our MSO, The Administrative Advantage MSO™, Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration, has partnered with a large variety of high quality businesses to offer ophthalmology support services under one umbrella. The benefits are two-fold: 1) the research has already been done to identify the best service providers for a variety of services and products and 2) the services are offered at amazing savings due to the large volume discounts.
Telemedicine support is one of the many services offered in The Administrative Advantage MSO™. Contact Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration, today to learn more about telemedicine company options and discover the other benefits of joining our MSO. It’s a connection that could drastically improve your ophthalmology revenue flow and skyrocket the success of your practice.