Is Telemedicine Here To Stay?
Telemedicine allows doctors to provide remote healthcare services to patients, helping ease geographic and financial barriers to healthcare.
The practice of telemedicine began in the 1950s, when doctors and patients would use landline telephones to share information and receive treatment. It has since expanded to three common methods: interactive medicine, remote patient monitoring, and store and forward.
Interactive medicine, also known as “live telemedicine,” allows patients and doctors to communicate in real-time.
Examples include video conferences, where patients discuss their symptoms and learn about treatment options or their diagnosis.
Remote patient monitoring allows caregivers to monitor patients using mobile medical devices to collect data, such as blood pressure and body temperature, and is commonly used to treat specific conditions or long-term diseases including asthma and heart disease. Store and forward allows providers to share patients’ information with other medical specialists and is more common in the fields of dermatology, radiology, and pathology.
Each of these telemedicine methods can be applied to various healthcare categories, whether it be emergency care, tele-nutrition, or tele-dentistry.
Using predictive analytics, AI can direct inquiries to specialists best suited to treat a patient rather than to the first available doctor, consequently decreasing patient wait times. In February 2020, the FDA authorized the marketing of an AI cardiac ultrasound guidance system, which expanded the pool of healthcare professionals able to administer this system beyond trained professionals.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine may soon become a widespread practice. As medical facilities continue to provide healthcare services, hospitals face the issues of overcrowding and the spread of disease. Telemedicine solves many of these problems by limiting patient displacement, allowing hospitals to allocate capacity for more severe cases - all while flattening the epidemic curve.
Both the CDC and WHO have advocated for the use of telemedicine during this period, and telemedicine companies have implemented COVID-19 related treatments. Companies such as PlushCare and Everlywell have released at-home testing kits, which ties in with their pre-existing remote consultation services. Other companies have offered risk assessments, providing patients with video or phone consultations with physicians.
The sudden surge in the use of telemedicine due to the pandemic could result in a burst in the practice’s market bubble post-COVID-19.
It’s uncertain whether telemedicine will continue to be praised for its convenience and efficiency, or if it will recede after the risks associated with in-person health consultations dissipate.
Written by Angelina Zhang
Edited by Glen Oh, Gihyen Eom, Michael Ding & Alexander Fleiss