By Mike Brandofino, President and COO, Caregility
There is little debate that the global pandemic pressure cooked telehealth solutions. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth and catalyzed its use in a meaningful way by establishing it permanently as a part of the healthcare delivery workflow. In the past, use cases for telehealth were focused on providing an alternative environment for patient and physician engagement. This month, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) annual conference highlighted major progress in telehealth use cases beyond virtual appointments to support emerging care models such as hybrid care – further solidifying a future of healthcare that is engaging for both providers and patients and outcome-oriented for all.
Telehealth and telemedicine have been respected as high-potential solutions in the emerging technology landscape for decades. As the premier telehealth event of the year, the 2022 ATA conference showcased virtual care delivery trends in context to other encouraging developments addressing the clinical talent shortage, health equity and accessibility, and the integration of new technologies such as connected devices and artificial intelligence.
Conference sessions showcased unprecedented ways in which telehealth is creating a fertile foundation for healthcare innovation to flourish. Telehealth solutions, whether inpatient or outpatient, inherently provide a centralized interface for clinical and patient experiences. That interface can expand care services by mobilizing patient/clinician interactions beyond constraints such as geography, time, and talent access.
Connected devices are becoming more integrated as well into the hybrid care workflow and many companies that presented at the conference showcased innovations aiming to use this technical infrastructure. Remote monitoring devices and other peripherals, such as smart stethoscopes, are challenging what is possible for both inpatient and outpatient experiences. As an example, device integrations elicit data insights that can be displayed in a hospital room for the patient to see while simultaneously providing an enhanced monitoring opportunity for the clinical staff.
This infrastructure is holding critical space for questions like:
- What kind of care could be possible if an inpatient experience wasn’t constrained to overtaxed nurse/patient ratios?
- What might rounds look like if a clinical team wasn’t capable of walking throughout a facility each day as they currently do?
- What happens if sitters are unavailable for patients that require supervision?
Undoubtedly, patient safety will benefit from asking questions like these and the dialog at ATA reflected much of the same approach. Other key topics of discussion included physician and clinical team burnout, remote triage, satellite-enabled internet access for rural communities, health equity, as well as further conversations around what’s ahead for telehealth regulation and reimbursement.
We must remember; telehealth is not the end goal. Instead, telehealth provides a path towards better health outcomes for patients and an improved clinical team experience. As momentum from the pandemic wanes and we move as an industry toward a hybrid care experience, telehealth will become harder to distinguish from a traditional care delivery experience. Telehealth will make hybrid care ubiquitous. This is encouraging as it indicates that telehealth is no longer a solution on the horizon, but one that has arrived and is integrating into care delivery in a meaningful way – and creating a foundation for future innovation that improves outcomes and the care delivery experience for everyone.