When the outbreak of the Coronavirus happened back in March 2020, the usage of virtual healthcare surged as both patients and healthcare providers sought out ways to safely access or give out help without the threat of the spread. During the first quarter of 2020, the number of virtual care visits increased by 50%, compared with the same period in 2019. And people have now embraced this facility as a survey recently found that 83% of people expect to use telemedicine even after the pandemic is resolved. In this article, we’ll talk about what virtual healthcare really is and how it has evolved over time.
What Virtual Healthcare Really Means?
In layman’s terms means visiting a doctor via a telehealth system. It refers to the ‘virtual visits’ that happen between a patient and a healthcare provider without actually having to physically visit a clinic or hospital. The visit occurs in real-time, from virtually any location. It can be used by different medical specialties ranging from primary care to neurology.
Physicians and healthcare providers use different telehealth systems and software that can allow video, audio, or instant messaging to address a patients’ concerns and diagnose their condition remotely.
The concept of virtual healthcare is still relatively new to providers and physicians given the especially slow adoption of technology in healthcare.
The Evolution of Digital Healthcare Post COVID-19
Digital Healthcare started almost 40-50 years ago when hospitals attempted to extend their services to patients in remote locations. From then it grew and slowly became an integral part of specialty departments, private doctor offices, hospitals, home health care, and the consumer’s residence and workplace.
The concept of telemedicine started when telecommunication networks were invented and their usage slowly spread in the world. Early types of telecommunication means and forms include telegraph, radio, and telephone, and these were used in the late 19th century by people to communicate.
It wasn’t until the mid 20th century when that doctors and scientists started to imagine the application of this technology in the field of medicine. In the 1950s a few hospitals experimented with how to put the concept of telemedicine into practice. With time the officials of the United States government saw that the concept is quite useful and can be implemented in areas that suffer from healthcare shortages.
Today the virtual healthcare industry is changing faster than ever before. With the exponential level of technological advancements and the widespread use of tools that can support the implementation of telehealth, this facility is now more common than ever.
Since the initial spike in April 2020, the telehealth industry has grown substantially because of a few factors which include increased consumer willingness to use telehealth, regulatory changes enabling greater access, and increased provider willingness to use telehealth. During the pandemic, the virtual care facility provided a safe route to care and after the growth of this particular sector, it can now be used to achieve the goal of improved and more widespread healthcare access.
According to research conducted by McKinsey and Company, Telehealth utilization has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic, and even after a year both patients and physicians are willing to use these means for receiving and giving out healthcare services. The research also mentions that while the perception of virtual healthcare is quite positive, technology security and safety remain to be addressed to sustain consumer and provider virtual health adoption.
Why does Virtual Healthcare Matters?
There are numerous advantages attached to the usage of virtual healthcare. Some of them include lower healthcare costs, better access to healthcare services, greater efficiency, customer engagement and satisfaction, and ultimately an increase in revenue for the healthcare industry.
Vital Digital Healthcare Trends in 2021
Healthcare and technology go hand-in-hand. Advances in technology are reshaping healthcare. So let’s see what new technologies and digital advancements have made the healthcare industry more inclined toward technology.
Augmented reality (AR) is the art of uncovering computer-generated visuals over a live view of the world. It amalgamates digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Given the recent advancements in technology, AR has become more affordable and accessible. It is being used in various fields including the healthcare and medicine industry to make them more efficient and digitally evolved. AccuVein, VIPAR, Anatomy, and VA-ST are among the available AR solutions that exist in the healthcare industry. AccuVein AV400 is used for the digital visualization of peripheral vasculature, which allows physicians to verify vein patency. Patients benefit from less discomfort during venipuncture procedures. VIPAR (Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality) is a video support solution that is used in telemedicine. A surgeon remotely guides a peer during a procedure by projecting his hands into an AR display.
Infectious Disease Management
Telecommunication technologies are now part of every aspect of our lives. Therefore their use in the management of diseases is also common. Several studies have assessed these technologies in the management of infectious diseases (mainly HIV). Weekly short text messages and real-time compliance monitoring assessed in HIV patients are both associated with higher compliance in low-income countries. Virtual consultations to monitor stable chronic HIV patients or tuberculosis treatment in high-income countries appear to be acceptable and efficient. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, receiving results and precautionary tips via email or text message proved to be very beneficial for both patient and the healthcare provider.
IoMT also known as the Internet of Medical Things is an integration of applications and medical devices that can help connect healthcare information technology systems using networking technologies. This helps reduce unnecessary hospital visits and the burden on healthcare systems by connecting patients to their physicians and allowing the transfer of medical data over a secure network. According to research, the Internet of Medical Things market is expected to reach US$ 284.5 Billion by 2027 globally.
The IoMT market consists of smart devices, such as wearables and medical/vital monitors, strictly for health care use on the body, in the home, or in community, clinic, or hospital settings.
There are a number of digital tools out there that support virtual healthcare. These tools provide a number of benefits including cost-saving and efficiency. These tools include:
- Online Patient Portals:
This telehealth tool enables patients to access their secure personal health history and reach out to providers 24/7. It allows patients to request specialist referrals, access test results, refill prescriptions, reference medical history, schedule non-urgent appointments, and understand their insurance policies.
- Patient Relationship Platforms:
This is a telehealth platform that helps with quality patient care. Also known as a patient management system, it allows the staff of a healthcare facility to know exactly where each patient is in the care process. With patient journeys housed in one program, rather than across a variety of spreadsheets and documents, communication becomes more simplified and accurate.
- EMR and EHR:
The EMR, or electronic medical record, refers to everything you’d find in a paper chart, such as medical history, diagnoses, medications, immunization dates, and allergies. Whilst, An EHR or electronic health record is a digital record of health information. It contains all the information you’d find in a paper chart and a lot more. Besides all the information mentioned in an EMR, an EHR also contains other relevant information, such as insurance information, demographic data, and even data imported from personal wellness devices. Both these tools have substantially helped in the growth of telehealth as it allows physicians to get the exact information about a patient’s health without doing a physical exam.
The Future of Virtual Healthcare
Virtual Healthcare is amongst the most prominent technological advancement and it is the one that is here to stay. According to a report, the global telehealth market is forecasted to grow from $25.4 billion in 2020 to $55.6 billion by 2025 with a CAGR. The healthcare industry still needs to work out some kinks like the safety and security of patient information and the streamlining of some telemedicine processes. If work is put in to make this tool more safe and secure, it can help reduce health care costs substantially and make the entire service more efficient.
We at Manhattan Medical Arts provide this facility. You can receive consultation from our expert physicians without having to leave the comfort of your home. Our televisit portal allows you to access top-of-the-line healthcare services regardless of where you are.
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More