Thanks to the pandemic, remote healthcare became a necessity all around the globe. With patients unable to visit their doctors and facilities incapable of handling the increasing demand, it became imperative that providers offer remote healthcare. Case in point, during the first four months of the pandemic, telehealth accounted for 23.6% of interactions, which was up from .3% in 2019.
And given COVID19 is predicted to become endemic by 2024, it’s almost a guarantee that telehealth is here to stay.
Many thought that, by now, such a need would have abated. What we’ve seen, however, is the need only increasing. That means businesses within the healthcare industry are having to make major adjustments to how they care for patients remotely. Part of that responsibility is in the hands of the physicians, but the IT departments and the software engineers also carry some of the burden.
After all, without the right software and services, remote care wouldn’t be possible. This, of course, could require many businesses to outsource their development, in order to be able to stay ahead of the curve. But outside of having the right talent to build the right tools for the task, how will remote healthcare evolve and become a permanent fixture in the coming year?
Let’s take a look.
Group Video Sessions
Thanks to services like Zoom (which is HIPAA/PIPEDA compliant), telehealth sessions between a single doctor and a patient have become commonplace. But what happens when group sessions (such as group therapy) are necessary? This is one area that could very easily see significant growth in 2022, especially as the pandemic continues to wear down societal resistance to mental and emotional strain.
The application of group video sessions will make a big difference in how effective mental care will be in the coming months and years. With more and more people afraid (or unable) to work face-to-face, there will be an ever-growing cross-section of society that will depend on telehealth for their counseling and therapy.
The one big issue with group video sessions that healthcare facilities will have to overcome is making sure all patients access the session in a private location. With the ease of access mobile phones provide, it means a patient could join a meeting while in a very public place, which would be a violation of HIPAA. Because of that, you must make sure you and your patience remain in compliance on every level.
Presently, patients often have to navigate through numerous platforms to make this work. This must change. If remote healthcare is to not only keep up with demand but become user-friendly enough to overcome the barrier to entry, those multiple platforms are going to have to evolve into a single point of entry.
Patients shouldn’t have to access one platform for sign-in, one for insurance, one for compliance, and one for the actual remote session. This all must be combined into one, otherwise, telehealth is going to struggle to accommodate demand.
This will put a strain on developers, as they struggle to not only fit the pieces together but also remain within HIPAA compliance. This might also require developers to work within the cloud to make this happen.
Seniors and Immunocompromised Go All Virtual
It should come as no surprise, but senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised will make up a large percentage of the remote healthcare audience in the coming year. Given both of these groups are at a higher risk of infection, they will most likely be the first people to continue to abstain from in-person visits.
This trend could very well continue to the point where both groups choose telehealth as their permanent primary option for healthcare. This will also lessen the burden placed on in-person visits, which will make it possible for facilities to better serve the community. At the same time, it might also require that hospitals and other organizations consider hiring telehealth-specific staff.
Remote Patient Monitoring
One area that could see significant growth is remote patient monitoring. One way this could be made even more efficient and effective is with the help of wearables. With doctors being able to easily monitor patients remotely, it will eliminate even more face-to-face visits and vastly improve telehealth services.
And given current wearables are already capable of keeping track of pulse and other patient data, we’re already one step ahead. Contact tracing (via wearables and smartphones) should also become a bit more prevalent (especially as more and more variants of COVID19 arise).
AI and IoT Will Become Necessary
Along with wearables, AI and IoT will become fundamental to processing the necessary data. Imagine if a home was equipped with AI-powered IoT that would be smart enough to process incoming data from a wearable and then be triggered should certain events occur. Once triggered, the IoT device could then make a request for a telehealth session.
That’s the direction remote healthcare must take, in the coming year, if it wants to be able to deliver an efficient and reliable means to keep up with growing demand.
Wider Adoption of Telehealth With Certain Groups
One of the big issues facing telehealth is that it’s been adopted by the young, the old, and the wealthy. The glaring blindspot is the poor. If telehealth is going to be widely adopted, the healthcare industry will have to focus considerable effort on making it possible for less fortunate communities to take advantage of this technology.
That will not only mean creating platforms that are viable in areas where bandwidth is a problem but also simply making them aware of it as an option.
Remote healthcare is only going to continue to grow more widespread over the coming years. That means every business within the healthcare sector is going to have to be prepared to evolve to meet demand and compliance. It’ll be a big challenge, but the community at large will reap significant benefits when providers make it more accessible, reliable, and easy for every community to use.