How Technology Is Shaping The Future of Medicine
There are many technology solutions currently being used on the market now, and there are some fantastic developments on the way.
Some providers allow patients to see a doctor to diagnose ailments via video consultations, some allow users to text a doctor at any time to ask basic health questions and find out whether a trip to the doctor’s office is necessary, and some are helping to re-engage the house-call doctor visit where patients can access on-demand doctors from every day of the week, while others now allow patients to skip the waiting room and receive urgent care by phone for non-emergency medical.
The future of telehealth
There’s a lot to be optimistic about the future of medicine.
With rapid advances in technology, it’s likely that telemedicine will only become easier and more widely accepted in the coming years. Already, smart glasses and smart watches can monitor patients’ health data and transmit them in real time to health professionals, and advances in robotic surgeries allow surgeons to operate on patients from afar.
Some medical professionals are increasingly turning to telehealth as the de facto standard of care. Where X-Rays, MRIs and CT Scans are routinely shared across medical practices, other care options provided by telehealth will become more commonplace, as well.
A common concern with telehealth for medical practices is the reliance on current reimbursement models. The change from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement models will need to be addressed. As more and more medical practices are managed by larger concerns, these expenses will be absorbed as an expense instead of a reimbursable event.
Peer-to-peer networks for sharing information will become more prevalent. As physicians embrace telehealth, communication will occur directly between individual healthcare facilities, instead of the current “hub” model between only major hospitals.
Mobile Health is certainly on the rise and will continue to lead the way in innovation. Patients and physicians alike are already widely accepting the use of mobile phones, video, and mobile apps as a way to help manage care.
Interesting ideas and concepts are taking shape
A recent article in USA News described Virtual Medical Centers as the next big thing in telemedicine. Here physicians, nurses, and therapists provide the bulk of the care from miles away. Virtual care itself isn’t new: For many years, hospitals have contracted with remote critical care specialists to monitor their ICU patients and have relied on teleconsults with specialists at major academic centers to provide guidance or second opinions.
But Mercy Virtual, the article continues, which opened last fall, takes the concept to a whole other level. The $54 million, 125,000-square-foot facility has no waiting rooms, hospital beds or patients on site. Instead, it houses more than 300 medical professionals who sit in front of monitors and computer displays, watching over the care of patients at 38 hospitals in seven states.
Robots are being used more in hospital settings
mHealth Intelligence published an article about the increased use of robots in telemedicine, the operating room and for critical care and homebound patient care.
Originally designed to ferry supplies around the hospital or give surgeons a steadier hand for delicate medical procedures, robots are now finding their way into the care continuum, thanks to a variety of designs that can turn them into walking, talking healthcare kiosks.
Healthcare robots can take orders from and deliver items to a patient, act as an around-the-clock sitter, assist frail and elderly patients out of a bed or chair, or provide a video connection to a distant doctor.
Robots are showing up in several healthcare scenarios. A blog in Medical Futurist outlines the nine most common uses:
- Room disinfection. A robot using UV light can sterilize a room more effectively than housecleaning, reducing the chances of a hospital-acquired infection like MRSA or C.diff.
- Reception. A robot can register patients, access medical records and provide detailed directions – in any number of languages.
- Surgical assistance. Robotic arms, guided by a doctor, can perform basic surgical procedures in small or delicate areas, even when the doctor is miles away.
- Remote clinical encounters. Robots can serve as a doctor’s eyes and ears in clinics, community centers, retail locations, and the patient’s home.
- Supply chain management. Robots can carry up to 400 pounds of supplies from one department to another, be programmed to respond to shortages, even deliver food and amenities to patient rooms.
- Assisting mobility-impaired patients. Some robots can assist patients in getting in and out of beds or wheelchairs, while exoskeletons can improve mobility for patients with partial paralysis or other physical impairments.
- Drug delivery. Miniaturized robots can be deployed inside the body, delivering targeted doses of medication to specific locations, such as an organ or tumor.
- Blood drawing. Newly developed robots can pinpoint the ideal vein and withdraw blood in half the time it takes a nurse to do the same thing.
- Patient engagement. Robotic animals can help soothe the nerves of traumatized patients, especially children.
The major drawback, at least for now, is cost. Robots aren’t cheap. A typical robot for a hospital setting can cost around $6,000.
Where do we go from here?
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal summed up the benefits of telemedicine:
“Doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and webcam. They’re also consulting with each other electronically—sometimes to make split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes. Patients, meanwhile, are using new devices to relay their blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions at home. Telemedicine also allows for better care in places where medical expertise is hard to come by.”
How far the advancements in technology and the acceptance by patients and physicians will push this new form of medicine remains to be seen. However, there is no denying the fact the future of medicine will certainly be exciting.
What does this mean for your practice?
The ability to offer your patients more alternatives to help manage their health care will provide the competitive edge necessary in today’s healthcare environment.
Does your practice need funding to manage the ever-changing patient and provider technology landscape? Get Started with Aquina Health today and see how we can help.