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How telemedicine is transforming healthcare

The advancement of technology has led to incredible changes in our lives—including how we manage our health. Making information more accessible than ever, connecting us to medical resources, and enabling new levels of self-care, we can now look up medical information online, consult a doctor via webcam, self-monitor our vital signs, or even check our cholesterol levels in the comfort of our own homes.

All of this has democratized medicine, shifting power from traditional point-of-care to the patients and creating a market in which patients consume health services more like traditional retail goods and services. As patient preferences and demands continue to shape this market, how can brands leverage technology and telemedicine to increase relevance and deliver more benefits to consumers?

Navigating the paradigm shift

In the past few years, telemedicine has dramatically changed the landscape, and, as a result, the total number of doctors’ office visits continues to decrease. Stressing just how big this change is, Wes Valdes, Medical Director of Healthcare Transformation Lab and Telehealth Service at Intermountain Healthcare, summed it up as a total “paradigm shift” at IHT’s conference in San Francisco. “By 2017,” he pointed out, “eight out of ten office visits will be done virtually. How is that going to affect your business model, if you don’t have a virtual way for visits?” In the case of Intermountain, the not-for-profit health system is in the process of equipping all its hospital rooms with virtual visit capabilities.

Technological developments are also making remote diagnostics easier. More tool kits are being developed and are starting to hit the market. Diagnostic testing is extending beyond the labs, and now patients can use a variety of small devices and apps at home to facilitate interactions with remote physicians. Take, for instance, CellScope’s Oto HOME, a small device that when plugged in your phone will act as an otoscope, sending precise videos of the inside of your ear to your connected physician. New technology like this, coupled with the adoption of telemedicine, are already having a significant impact on the traditional healthcare model—and that is only going to accelerate.

It’s about convenience—and a whole lot more

Convenience is really the key in this new model. When patients—and doctors— have easier options, we can assume that the need for simplicity will drive choices.

Yet the benefits of technology, for both patients and physicians, aren’t just limited to convenience, Telemedicine and high-tech new means of monitoring and self-care also reduces the number of hospital admissions, and, ultimately, our nation’s overall healthcare costs.

With access to more information and easier ways to maintain control over their health, consumers are more and more involved in their own wellbeing. Many of us are tracking our every movement, caloric intake, sleep, etc., via new technological devices like FitBits and the soon-to-be released iWatch. As this technology pushes the evolution of the healthcare market from a treatment-focused one to a prevention-focused one, telemedicine is likely to play a key role in this process. Easy, convenient solutions could entice reluctant patients to consult a physician and get more involved in their health, which will ultimately keep them out of the hospital.

Although the market has already seen some new strong brands emerging like Teladoc, MDlive, and Doctor on Demand, there are also opportunities for traditional healthcare brands—particularly hospitals and diagnostics companies—to explore this area and establish themselves in an already flourishing market. It’s time to rethink the “house call,” adapt, and be proactive.

Why enable patient procrastination when you can create an offering that will encourage them to connect and get the care and support they need?

Contributors

Associate Director, Analytics