Fascinating panel discussion at WCA's HealthTech '17 conference
“There’s a sense of exciting things happening in telemedicine and technology,” said Dr. Christian Otto of Memorial Sloan Kettering at WCA’s HealthTech ’17, as he began his presentation for the panel Next Generation Telehealth: The Future Is Now. While still evolving, “Telehealth leads to longer survival, a 38% improvement in the quality of life, and 7% fewer urgent care visits.” According to Dr. Otto, telehealth will allow patients to: • Include family members (even those living far away) in care decisions; • Bring care and monitoring directly into the home; • Access healthcare from remote locations without travel; • See a doctor without missing work or needing childcare. But will people use this technology?
They already are, explained Dr. Corey Skurlock of WMC Health, “We see about 100 patients in the teleICU every day, which makes us Number Two in the nation.” Telehealth expedites care in critical situations, he added. “Telestroke patients see specialists within twelve minutes of entering the ER. The technology allows us to follow patients from transport to recovery, something that wasn’t always possible before.” Telepsychiatry is also a critical specialty since 50% of US counties do not have access to a psychiatrist.
Telehealth is proving especially useful for follow up appointments. For example, surgical patients in recovery can have their postoperative checks from home, eliminating the travel to a doctor’s office that sometimes makes recovery even longer or more difficult. Even ER doctors are using technology to follow up on high-risk patients the day after they’ve been released. Another benefit that was hard to execute before telemedicine.
How do doctors feel about Telehealth? “The average physician spends only 27% of their time seeing patients,” lamented Dr. Samant Virk of MediSprout. Since most doctors would prefer to spend more time with patients, Telehealth can help them do just that. “The technology connects doctor and patient,” he said. Although there are claims technology reduces human interaction, in this case, it actually strengthens the connections.
Where is Telehealth headed? People of all ages are savvier with technology – from millennials to boomers to seniors. Patients want to use their phones, tablets, and computers for access to healthcare, just like they use them for everything else. “Technology savvy individuals are driving this technology; it is transferring well to older generations," said Dr. Zsolt Kulscar of White Plains Hospital. Do patients over 75 have the ability to learn the technology? "Yes!” said Dr. Otto. Of course, younger generations are already adapting. “It allows patients to access doctors now, and that's exactly what millennials want.”