Virtualization Technology News and Information
VeeMed 2021 Predictions: Telehealth becomes a standard of care

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Telehealth becomes a standard of care

By Dr. Arshad Ali, President and Chief Medical Officer, VeeMed

The global pandemic crisis will continue in 2021, driving more use of telehealth services to enable contactless medical care. Advancements in telehealth virtualization technology will inspire more healthcare organizations to embrace telehealth services as a means of remote consultation of critical care patients, using in-room screen monitors in hospitals; remote consults from a clinic location, and outpatient consultation delivered in the safety of a patient's own home, using new, secure video capability.  Telehealth services will support the entire continuum of health care, fulfilling the need for both patient and physician safety.

Here are several key predictions on the further adoption of telehealth in 2021 and what operational and care areas will be positively impacted by continuing technology innovation.

Hospitals will face the fact they need telehealth to balance out staff shortages. 

Emergency rooms and intensive care units (ICU) are experiencing staff shortages, with COVID-19 further escalating this dilemma.  For example, in California, an ICU nurse can take care of two patients; a 10-bed ICU requires five nurses.  It is a labor-intensive process that can be supported by physicians on call through telehealth services.   Physicians can supplement staff and provide quick response when urgent care decisions must be made.  A stroke patient must have a response within five minutes.  That can be challenging with staff shortages, and with doctors in rural areas unable to physically get on site in the required time.  Telemedicine can provide a life-saving response with an average login of 2.5 minutes.  For ICU patients in general, telemedicine can give a response in five or less minutes.

Ease of technology use will spur adoption.

Telehealth technology relies on elements people are already comfortable with, helping to make adoption less stressful and physicians, staff and outpatients more inclined to use the services.  Hospital providers can turn patient televisions or other monitors into a virtual healthcare device to connect telemedicine service providers with patients. For in-patient consults, the required items are a webcam, noise cancelling microphone and a compute stick compatible with an HDMI-enabled TV or other monitor and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity.   A hospital can use a touch screen that enables the staff to choose a specialty, complete an intake form and submit the request.  A built-in cloud-based scheduler matches the request to an on-call telephysician and quickly the physician, using their device, can be connected to the in-room screen, view the patient and provide the consult.

Another important use of telehealth, notably during COVID-19, is outpatient care. Clinics have closed and patients are wary of in-person visits. Technology advancements have made it simple for someone in their home to use their own device and connect, via one click on a secure screen, to a telephysician.  Communication is HIPAA compliant and uses end-to-end, 256-bit AES encryption to ensure privacy.  With clinics closing due to COVID-19, the ability to serve patients in their home is imperative.  From the telephysician side new advancements make it possible to integrate medical records and other patient-related data into one application, so all knowledge is available when they connect with a patient.  This helps improve diagnostics and eliminates the burdensome practice of having to use multiple applications. 

Analytics data will begin to appear and further validate the benefits of telehealth.

The question mark behind telehealth is whether it is as effective as in-person care. The proof points will begin to surface in 2021 as providers analyze patient outcomes and report data after the first year of the pandemic.  The expectation is the data will show positive outcomes from telemedicine as a result of COVID-19-driven outpatient care, in-room screen monitoring and care of critical patients. 

Patient-centric care will be the new model.

Virtualization has given health care providers the means to extend their reach beyond on-site patient care with telehealth platforms that leverage the cloud to bring care to a patient's location, whether in-room or outpatient.   Telemedicine is part of the next evolution:  moving from provider-centric care to patient-centric care, understanding, on a global scale, there simply are not enough physicians or specialists to conduct on-site visits. 

The pandemic year drove more use of telehealth but it also gave patients more opportunities to participate in telehealth and see the positive impact.  As providers further operationalize telehealth and employ more specialists via telemedicine technology, patients will start to see how virtualization can help them with positive outcomes, and regarding COVID, reduce risk.

Bringing care to the patient, via telemedicine, can save lives, identify health issues for early intervention and help providers solve the dilemma of staff shortages at a time when so much care has become urgent due to the pandemic.

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About the Author

Dr. Arshad Ali 

Dr. Arshad Ali is President and Chief Medical Officer of VeeMed, and a physician specializing in critical care. He is a board-certified practicing physician and has served as a board member of Mercy Medical Group; he has held various leadership positions such as Chief of Pulmonary/Critical Care/Sleep at Mercy Medical Group, Medical Director at Mercy Folsom Hospital ICU, Director of Tele-ICU at Dignity Telehealth Network, and Medical Director at Mark Twain Medical Center Cardiopulmonary Services. Additionally, he was a member of MEC (Medical Executive Committee), quality, sepsis, critical care, pharmacy/therapeutic, infection control, and excellence committees at Dignity Health Hospitals (Mercy San Juan, Mercy Folsom, and Mercy General hospitals).

Arshad has received numerous industry awards for his work and research. He is a graduate of Hamdard College of Medicine & Dentistry, Karachi, Pakistan, and has also completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in the healthcare concentration. He was selected by Dignity Health to participate in a 2-year physician executive development program with a focus on leadership development and healthcare business strategic thinking. 

Prior to focusing on VeeMed full-time, he was Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine Department at Mercy Medical Group, and served on the Board of Directors. Dr. Ali was also the former Director of the Mercy Folsom ICU, and former Director of Tele-ICU for Dignity Health Telemedicine Network.

Published Thursday, November 12, 2020 7:37 AM by David Marshall
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