Research Series: Article 5
May 26, 2020
Telehealth: The Future of Care
By Raphael Yaakov
As the states ease lockdown, we find ourselves still firmly under the grip of a deadly virus which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Corona’. ‘I’ll have it with salt and lime’, the pun goes. While nothing else sounds more tantalizing than the sight of an ice-cold beer with a wedged lime against the backdrop of sun-kissed shoreline, this is not the time to flout social distancing. Many young people did just that—flocking to the beach for a kickoff to Memorial Day weekend. Seniors, however, found themselves sequestered. Among them are the vulnerable patients with comorbidities and chronic wounds, who have not been able to see their healthcare provider for months. There is an urgency to close the widening distances and bring care to them.
As part of the emergency response, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) temporarily expanded benefits to telehealth services. This policy and regulatory flexibility are part of the broader efforts of the White House Task Force to ensure access to healthcare, particularly for those at high-risk of complications during the pandemic. Regulations also relaxed in Europe, giving way to technology that is set to reshape the future of care. In just a few weeks, the expansion of telehealth services paved the path for access to timely, personalized and high-quality care. Across the globe, there is a growing consensus that telehealth is the future of care. It has the potential to drastically cut costs, reduce resource utilization and improve patient outcomes.
Telehealth improves the continuity of care, addressing one of the prominent issues in care—non-adherence. It has been estimated that non-adherence causes 125,000 preventable deaths and up to $200 billion in avoidable healthcare costs.1 Missed appointments, poor compliance with treatment plan or medications lead to complications, higher morbidity, mortality and increased health care costs. For patients living in rural areas, limited caregiver availability, lack of transportation and lack of access to specialty services add to the problem.
Telehealth not only reduces distances but can also build bridges, restoring trust in the doctor-patient relationship as the teleconsultations are patient-facing and patient-centric. Recent advances have led to a proliferation of wearable devices and sensors for personalized health and wellness. Streamlining data from connected devices will enable providers to measure biological parameters, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. Future generations of connected devices or Internet of Things (IOT) will radically transform telehealth.
There is no doubt that telehealth holds great promise for the future, however policy and infrastructure inadequacies will need to be addressed. The regulators will need to fully usher in virtual care beyond the COVID-19 public health response. States and health plans will need to align their policies to ensure consistent regulation, billing and coding to drive the path forward for telehealth services.
1Viswanathan M, Golin CE, Jones CD, et al. Interventions to improve adherence to self-administered medications for chronic diseases in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:785-795.
Raphael Yaakov’s experience spans across phase I-IV drug and device multinational trials. He currently serves as Vice President of Clinical Operations at SerenaGroup®, a Collaborative group dedicated to wound care research.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.