As our world becomes more and more dependent on technology, telehealth is growing rapidly in popularity. Technology and IT improvements in the healthcare field now allow for doctor visits and prescriptions without requiring patients to leave the comfort of their home. Here are five topics in the healthcare IT world we have identified as currently trending:
Calling it "Telehealth"
Recently, the suffix “tele” has become increasingly used in the healthcare field. You have likely heard of the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” if you spend time around doctors, nurses, or any healthcare providers. The term “telehealth” is used to describe virtual healthcare, clearly significant for the world of healthcare IT. This term is likely going to stick around as virtual care continues to grow.
According to HealthIT.gov, telehealth includes four categories of application:
- Live video conferencing
- Store-and-forward video conferencing
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
- Mobile health (mHealth)
Telehealth for Rural Patients
With most large hospitals located in larger cities, it is often difficult for those in rural areas to have access to the healthcare they need. Telehealth makes serving patients in rural areas much more reasonable. Offering health services through an app or video conferencing could allow rural patients more practical access to healthcare than traveling long distances to the nearest city. This also clears space in the waiting room of hospitals to serve patients who can more easily arrive at a hospital, providing faster care for all patients.
Virtual Office Visits
Providing virtual doctor office visits is a huge trend in the healthcare field. Although the service is growing slowly as it is a massive project for hospitals to take on, there are several independent companies, like Doctor on Demand, providing virtual office visits no matter where you are located. However, it is assumed that more hospital networks will offer this service in the coming years. Ascension Health, the largest non-profit health system in the country, is already bringing this trend to their network of hospitals around the U.S. For example, the 24 St. Vincent hospitals that serve the Indiana market of Ascension, launched St. Vincent OnDemand last summer. We expect to see this trend grow as it has been successful for the providing hospitals in the past year.
Telehealth and the Opioid Crisis
A new bill called the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 has recently been introduced to the Senate in order to establish new rules for healthcare providers targeting the massive crisis. This bill calls for healthcare systems to increase their use of telehealth to fight the opioid crisis in our country, including new guidelines for telemedicine. This bill comes at a time when virtual healthcare related to the government is already in expansion mode. Because of this, the VA can now treat patients remotely across state lines, allowing telehealth to treat more veterans across the nation.