The Telehealth Revolution Has Only Just Begun
Author: David Ryan, GM Health and Life Sciences Business, Intel
In the wake of COVID-19, all industries have had to adjust the way they operate. Nowhere is this more evident than in healthcare, where doctors and other clinicians have turned to emerging technology solutions in order to keep up with growing demand for services and keep patients safe. In the months since COVID-19’s emergence, health systems have introduced machine learning tools that can quickly scan CT and X-ray models for the presence of COVID-19 in lungs and stood-up virtual ICUs to monitor and manage patients, for example.
The rapid adoption of telehealth has greatly helped to expand access to healthcare at a time when traditional in-person visits had to be avoided due to the significant increased risk to patients, healthcare providers and communities. According to a May 2020 McKinsey report, healthcare providers used telehealth solutions to allow 46% of Americans to replace a cancelled healthcare visit with a telehealth service during the pandemic. That represents a 50 to 175 times increase in the number of patients normally seen using telehealth. Before COVID-19, U.S. telehealth providers accounted for $3 billion of annual healthcare spending. Today, McKinsey estimates that up to $250 billion of U.S. healthcare spent may be virtualized due to telehealth.
Convenience, safety and insights in one solution
Telehealth options have expanded to not only include texts, phone calls, image forwarding, video visits but also robust patient health portals and remote monitoring. Using telehealth solutions, a greater number of suspected and positive COVID-19 patients can quarantine in the safety of their homes without forgoing care, freeing up healthcare resources for those that need them the most. In addition, patients suffering from non-COVID afflictions can seek treatment without entering vulnerable environments. On the provider side, telehealth is helping keep clinicians healthy, while helping them manage their case load and lessen the backlog of future demand for services once the pandemic has decreased.
With this shift, we have heard a lot of discussion about how telehealth is “just as good as” in-person visits. I would challenge us to internalize that telehealth has been shown superior to in-person visits in situations where there is no clear need for physical co-presence. While telehealth solutions have existed for some time, recent solutions are utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to drive even deeper insights, faster diagnoses and streamline routine services. Advanced cameras equipped with AI are helping to detect fever or other patient cues, and AI-driven automation is allowing machines to make immediate adjustments in response to changes to the patient’s heart rate, breathing, temperature and other signs.
By aggregating data, providers can use AI to identify trends, enabling them to better predict patient behavior and organizational needs. In ICUs, software can combine data across multiple devices that aren’t connected, creating an impressively complete picture of that patient for their clinician. And all that data collected? It can be captured, stored and analyzed to drive better predictions in the future.
Remote care should be the standard of care
The push for rapid innovation amid COVID-19 has resulted in new solutions that are not only helping healthcare providers to see us through an epic pandemic, but provide patients with faster, more accurate and complete care. At Intel, we believe remote care should be made standard of care, and that the telehealth benefits we see today will be at the center of reimagining what healthcare will be tomorrow. With these advances, it’s not hard to imagine a future where remote management of chronic conditions is routine with convenient check-ins from the comfort of the patient’s home, and population health for future healthcare issues is boosted by analytics and the full spectrum of data captured from the home to the clinic.
To get there, we all need to share the success with our policymakers and encourage the continuation of secure, effective telehealth. We must make telehealth a permanent part of the healthcare toolkit, for our communities, today and tomorrow.