Projections for the growth of the telehealth market are optimistic, and much of this optimism is predicated upon the increasing demand for remote medical care. According to a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers say they would use telehealth. At present, several major companies along with a bevvy of startups are working to develop a leading presence in the field.
Dr. Bernstein has practiced medicine since 1990 and provided virtual care with our team since 2006. He received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina and completed a residency at Providence Family Practice in Seattle. He also holds a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of Washington. Dr. Bernstein is dedicated to quality preventive medicine, public health promotion, and research. As Director of Clinical Quality, he manages the development and maintenance of the clinical standards of patient care, working with the development team to create new systems for measuring clinical delivery effectiveness. In his spare time, he is an avid cyclist and a soccer fan.
This open, multidirectional sharing of knowledge and expertise creates new local capacity that didn't previously exist to treat devastating conditions like opioid addiction, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, HIV and hepatitis. In New Mexico, for example, the number of providers certified to treat opioid use disorder with buprenorphine has increased more than tenfold—from 36 in 2005 to 375 in 2014—following the launch of an ECHO for treating addiction.
Store-and-forward telemedicine involves acquiring medical data (like medical images, biosignals etc.) and then transmitting this data to a doctor or medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline. It does not require the presence of both parties at the same time. Dermatology (cf: teledermatology), radiology, and pathology are common specialties that are conducive to asynchronous telemedicine. A properly structured medical record preferably in electronic form should be a component of this transfer. A key difference between traditional in-person patient meetings and telemedicine encounters is the omission of an actual physical examination and history. The 'store-and-forward' process requires the clinician to rely on a history report and audio/video information in lieu of a physical examination.
There certainly has been a lot of excitement around how novel digital technology can change the patient-provider relationship. A recent survey found that 64% of patients are willing to have video visits with their physicians, and the telehealth industry is expected to expand 10-fold by 2018. Apps like Doctor on Demand could play a major role in bringing telehealth mainstream; notably, Richard Branson (the man behind the Virgin Group empire), has recently invested in Doctors On Demand. The biggest benefits of virtual health apps are in lowering costs and saving time, particularly for those who cannot access care nearby. In a disease like diabetes, where blood glucose data can be analyzed remotely, there certainly is a lot of potential for technology to improve care. For more information on the role of virtual health in diabetes, check out our conference pearls from AADE 2014. –AJW/KC/AB
After laying out the basics, an organization should decide what type of telemedicine solutions to offer. A telemedicine expert like VSee offers a text and video collaboration app, a Virtual waiting room, and more. The organization should be responding to their current pain points, such as overcrowded waiting rooms or difficulty reaching patients in rural areas.
A question popular among organizations that want to implement telemedicine solutions is regarding how their physicians will be reimbursed. With telehealth regulations varying for each state and with payers setting up different policies, it is difficult to find consistency. What does remain consistent is that telemedicine is advancing and its becoming difficult for the key players to keep up.
The range and use of telehealth services have expanded over the past decades, along with the role of technology in improving and coordinating care. Traditional models of telehealth involve care delivered to a patient at an originating (or spoke) site from a specialist working at a distant (or hub) site. A telehealth network consists of a series of originating sites receiving services from a collaborating distant site.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TV celebrity Dr. Phil McGraw discussed the Doctor On Demand app, which connects any patient with a Board Certified physician or pediatrician via video chat in just two minutes. To use Doctor On Demand, patients download the app, give some background on their medical history, enter information on what’s wrong, and the app connects them to a health care provider from there. The service is currently available in 47 US states (excluding Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska) and can be accessed through the iPhone, iPad, Android, and on the web. Doctor on Demand’s hours of operation are 7 am to 11 pm local time (we're hoping it will one day become available 24 hours a day). A 15-minute session costs $40, which is a bit higher than the average co-pay many patients have for in-office visits, and the program currently does not accept health insurance. From the app demo at CES and from Kelly’s experience (more on that below), the Doctor On Demand app is quite sleek and the video chat is as easy to use as Facetime or Skype. Patients can find pharmacists and manage their prescriptions right from their smartphone – no more hard-to-read prescriptions or the potential to lose the prescription slip. Dr. Phil characterized the service as a “game-changer” and proposed that it could address 17 of the top 20 reasons people see a doctor (the flu, skin conditions, etc.) – these day-to-day conditions seem to be a key focus of Docotor on Demand, as opposed to more chronic conditions like full-time diabetes management. To learn more about Doctor on Demand’s policies and most frequently asked questions, please see this page.
Glenda Clemens has worked in primary care since 2001 and provided virtual care since 2012. She has practiced medicine as a nurse's aide, licensed practical nurse and registered nurse before receiving her Master of Nursing from the University of Oklahoma. From running her own practice to caring for veterans, she demonstrates a commitment to providing care to underserved populations. When she is not working, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and writing poetry.
Alan Pitt, MD, is a neuroradiologist at Barrow Neurological Institute. He is the former chief medical officer of Avizia, which was acquired by American Well earlier this year. Dr. Pitt also serves as an advisor to several health IT companies and operates his own podcast. He offers a four-pronged framework to examine the current world of telemedicine: direct-to-consumer, self-service, clinician collaboration, and "spaces."
Online medical care might not be the doctors and nurses of your parents’ time, but it is a huge advancement that will help care for your parents’ future. Geriatric care is greatly impacted by the mobility of older patients and using technology-based doctor appointments is a much-needed solution. So, is this new-fangled approach to healthcare here to stay? It sure looks that way!
Project ECHO, a knowledge-sharing enterprise that works both across the U.S. and globally, offers a good example of how technology-enabled collaborative learning models work. Launched initially in New Mexico to help patients with hepatitis C gain access to specialty treatment, Project ECHO connects a team of specialists at a university medical center "hub" with teams of primary-care clinicians at community health centers—or "spokes"—across a state or region. This connection is recurring: Typically, it takes place every week or every other week, during telementoring clinics that operate like virtual grand rounds.
Bao Ng has worked in primary care since 2013 and provided virtual care since 2013. Obtaining her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Washington, she began working in telemedicine shortly thereafter. Her medical interests include international health, and maternal and child health. She works at an international community health clinic near her home, and is fluent in Vietnamese and proficient in conversational Cantonese. She volunteers as a caregiver in her church nursery and is an executive board member for a local pediatric and behavioral health clinic. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children and exploring new cuisines.
Two important areas of telerehabilitation research are (1) demonstrating equivalence of assessment and therapy to in-person assessment and therapy, and (2) building new data collection systems to digitize information that a therapist can use in practice. Ground-breaking research in telehaptics (the sense of touch) and virtual reality may broaden the scope of telerehabilitation practice, in the future.
In developed countries, health promotion efforts using telehealth have been met with some success. The Australian hands-free breastfeeding Google Glass application reported promising results in 2014. This application made in collaboration with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and a tech startup called Small World Social, helped new mothers learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is beneficial to infant health and maternal health and is recommended by the World Health Organisation and health organisations all over the world. Widespread breastfeeding can prevent 820,000 infant deaths globally but the practice is often stopped prematurely or intents to do are disrupted due to lack of social support, know-how or other factors. This application gave mother's hands-free information on breastfeeding, instructions on how to breastfeed and also had an option to call a lactation consultant over Google Hangout. When the trial ended, all participants were reported to be confident in breastfeeding.
How much and which telemedicine services private payers pay for again can vary widely by state. While the trend is toward broader coverage of telemedicine services for plan enrollees, private payers are still deciding on exactly what they will cover and what they won’t. 29 states and Washington, DC have passed telemedicine parity laws, which mandate that private payers in those states pay for telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person visits.
Telepharmacy is the delivery of pharmaceutical care via telecommunications to patients in locations where they may not have direct contact with a pharmacist. It is an instance of the wider phenomenon of telemedicine, as implemented in the field of pharmacy. Telepharmacy services include drug therapy monitoring, patient counseling, prior authorization and refill authorization for prescription drugs, and monitoring of formulary compliance with the aid of teleconferencing or videoconferencing. Remote dispensing of medications by automated packaging and labeling systems can also be thought of as an instance of telepharmacy. Telepharmacy services can be delivered at retail pharmacy sites or through hospitals, nursing homes, or other medical care facilities.
In the early days of telemedicine, health professionals used the burgeoning technology as a way to reach patients living in rural areas. However, the technology quickly expanded into urban areas, especially those that suffered from healthcare shortages. In 1967, physicians at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Miami's Fire Department transmitted electrocardiographic rhythms over existing voice radio channels from fire-rescue units to the city's Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Teleophthalmology is a branch of telemedicine that delivers eye care through digital medical equipment and telecommunications technology. Today, applications of teleophthalmology encompass access to eye specialists for patients in remote areas, ophthalmic disease screening, diagnosis and monitoring; as well as distant learning. Teleophthalmology may help reduce disparities by providing remote, low-cost screening tests such as diabetic retinopathy screening to low-income and uninsured patients. In Mizoram, India, a hilly area with poor roads, between 2011 till 2015, Tele-ophthalmology has provided care to over 10000 patients. These patients were examined by ophthalmic assistants locally but surgery was done on appointment after viewing the patient images online by Eye Surgeons in the hospital 6–12 hours away. Instead of an average 5 trips for say, a cataract procedure, only one was required for surgery alone as even post op care like stitch removal and glasses was done locally. There were huge cost savings in travel etc.
Kaitlin Brasier has worked in primary care since 2012 and provided virtual care since 2013. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of San Diego in 2012. In addition to providing virtual care, she works in a dermatology clinic. She has extensive experience in family practice nursing and women's health and has conducted research on childhood obesity prevention. She enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, snowboarding and horseback riding. She also likes cooking, reading and travel.