What to Expect from Telehealth in 2019
How Telehealth Will Continue to Evolve in 2019
As we enter a new year, the telehealth industry shows no signs of slowing down. The industry is still on track to reach $3.5 billion in revenue by 2022. In fact, 86% of healthcare executives that have not already adopted telemedicine into their operations say that it is a medium to high priority. This indicates that it’s only a matter of time before nearly every major healthcare network adopts some form of telehealth.
Some major technological trends are fueling the expansion of this industry as more healthcare providers and their patients use and depend on digital health-related services. Here are four trends in telehealth that are sure to dominate in 2019.
Increasing Reliance on Smartphones and Mobile Devices
One major roadblock to widespread telehealth adoption is the need for a robust digital infrastructure. This lack of resources, from tablets and computers to other smart devices, has led to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution. Many healthcare providers and patients must now use their own digital device if they want to access a telemedicine app, including those that offer virtual doctors’ visits, real-time patient-doctor communication, and remote patient monitoring.
A recent study shows widespread BYOD usage among top healthcare executives, including 91% of doctors, 79% of fellow executives, and 51% of nurses. 46% of those surveyed cited time savings, while 40% listed cost savings as a major benefit of BYOD.
On the patient side, global smartphone usage is expected to rise to 40% by the year 2021. With so many devices floating around, healthcare networks are using this trend to their advantage as they recruit more telehealth patients.
The IoT for More Patient Visibility
In addition to the industry’s increasing reliance on smartphones, healthcare networks are increasingly investing in the Internet of Things (IoT), or everyday devices that are connected to the internet, including wearable technology like smart watches that track the patient’s movement. Hospitals and doctors are using this technology to connect with patients and improve the overall visibility of their operations.
60% of healthcare organizations globally have already introduced IoT devices into their facilities, citing cost savings and an increase in innovation. Administrators can use smart sensors to track bed occupancy rates and patients come and go throughout the facility. Doctors can also use these tools to remotely monitor a patient’s condition, including post-op patients or those with a chronic condition. Telestroke technology is also being used to monitor and treat patients recovering from a stroke.
Maintaining and Enforcing Cybersecurity
With so many new digital devices coming online, the industry is becoming increasingly concerned with cybersecurity. Studies show 87% of healthcare executives expect to increase their spending on cybersecurity in 2019. This includes monitoring telehealth systems for unusual activity, backing up sensitive healthcare information, encrypting confidential records, and establishing protocols for retrieving lost data and restarting systems in the event of a cyberattack or blackout.
Healthcare executives are also looking for ways to audit and vet digital devices before bringing them online, especially if employees need to use their personal devices for work-related activities.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
The main purpose of these digital devices is to collect and share valuable healthcare information. Now healthcare executives are looking for ways to analyze and make meaningful sense of this data. This is leading to a rise in artificially intelligent (AI) healthcare systems that look for irregularities regarding a patient’s health.
These systems can even use a patient’s history to predict future outcomes, such as the likelihood of having a stroke. This information is helping doctors and specialists make more informed decisions when treating their patients.
These technological trends have become the backbone of the telehealth industry. Doctors, nurses and their patients will all need access to digital devices if they hope to make use of telehealth services. As more devices and patients join the telehealth revolution, healthcare networks will need to invest in more cybersecurity to make sure this digital information is kept safe. 2019 will be all about making this new industry more accessible to patients and lowering the cost of care.