More ways to provide care: Telehealth’s leaps in 2019
The TytoHome is a device that can accurately capture exam data on lungs, ears, eyes and other vitals routinely during any doctor visit. Equipped with a camera for video conferencing, it enables physicians to perform remote checkups.
The device made it into Time’s 2019 100 Best Inventions list, illustrating just how widespread telehealth has come.
Telemedicine advances in 2019
The TytoHome joins a host of devices, from the esoteric remote blood pressure sensors to the pedestrian iPhone, that are connecting patients and practitioners outside of the traditional care environments. Advances in 2019 have seen rural patients monitored by specialists remotely, underserved populations matched with appropriate providers, and a wide range of innovations and savings.
As populations drop in rural areas, health options for those who remain shrink or outright vanish. States across the nation seriously invested in telehealth, largely to address the disparities in care between urban and rural areas.
This was Nevada’s primary focus, while proponents in Kansas see it as a way to reach any number of patients who don’t have the time or means to make it regularly to appointments.
An organization in Maine is rolling out telehealth devices to monitor chronically ill seniors in the mostly rural state, with an aim to reduce readmissions and improve ongoing care.
Tele-psychiatry stepping up
Telehealth now can reach many patients who might not have had contact with the proper health services before. Ayana is an app connecting minorities to mental health professionals of a shared background – a potentially groundbreaking tool in an industry where the overwhelming majority of practitioners are white.
There are other tele-psychiatry apps, as well, with more broad scopes. Together they are helping increase the reach of care to people who need it most. Although mental illnesses affect a wide section of the country, access to care can be limited or nonexistent in many areas.
Patients may not be able to afford care if it is available, and there still are many stigmas around receiving therapy. Connecting patients with practitioners via video, phone and text means a greater range of people can access treatment that fits their needs.
The usual suspects
Major consumer electronics manufacturers are getting in on the game.
Amazon’s Alexa assistant is helping out with medication adherence, making sure users take their pills and helping them order refills.
Both Google and Apple, major stakeholders in the wearables market, have been steadily adding health monitoring functionality to their devices and services. Patent applications even suggest Apple could be moving into remote health monitoring in a big way. Naturally, there are a host of apps and online services that help monitor health patterns, offer data-driven personal insights, and connect people with care providers in new ways.
If all of these advances suggest anything about telehealth in 2019 or foreshadow what is to come in 2020, it is that the technology is constantly expanding and still has a lot of room to grow.
Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.
Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.