As the coronavirus pandemic continues, more healthcare providers are leaning on telehealth, telemental health, telebehavioral health and/or telemedicine to manage patient care in a safer way, meeting with patients either via phone call or virtually with a video conference. And technology is taking over basically every other industry as well – with curbside service for restaurants, mobile ordering for groceries and household items, and even digital banking seeing an uptick.
It begs the question: Will the coronavirus change the way we live when social distancing is no longer required?
As we rely more heavily on technology, one might wonder if it will become the new norm for all aspects of our lives, including our medical care. To get some perspective on these types of questions, I went straight to an expert.
I sat down with Steve LoSardo, VP of Healthcare Solutions at Mobiquity, to get his take on how the coronavirus will impact the use of technology in healthcare, long after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Jackie: To start, what are your thoughts around the healthcare industry’s response to the coronavirus, specifically for patients with chronic illness (not impacted by COVID-19)?
Steve: First, I want to acknowledge the great work that healthcare providers are doing to combat the coronavirus and keep us all healthy and safe. They are the true heros and deserve every bit of gratitude that we can give them, today and everyday. For the workers who are caring for patients with chronic conditions, I think they too are doing a tremendous job. You mentioned the steps that they are taking to keep their patients safe, and this is critical for high-risk populations who are more susceptible to these types of illnesses. I think the onboarding and use of digital tools will do a great deal to help protect patients.
Jackie: Speaking of digital tools – we’re obviously hearing a lot about telehealth right now with so many routine visits moving to video conferencing or phone calls, but what other technologies are being used to help keep the public safe?
Steve: A lot of people may not realize that there are technologies used everyday to keep track of patients’ health. The Internet of Things is a concept that some members of the healthcare industry have embraced to keep doctors connected with their patients in between in-office visits. The doctors that already had this technology in place are in a great spot. Doctors that don’t have it may be struggling – but this is an opportune time to kick start a digital program.
For example, connected glucose tests for diabetes patients that alert their provider when they may be too high or too low is a way that patients can get the care they need without ever leaving their home or disrupting their normal routine. Digital blood pressure monitors and weight scales also provide physicians the ability to check in on patients when they are not in the office, which is becoming increasingly important as more and more seniors are looking to stay in their homes as they age. There is even a company that is “crowd-sourcing” temperature readings for digital thermometers to identify and track potential hotspots for COVID-19, while still maintaining patient privacy. These technologies have never been more important as healthcare providers look to continue monitoring and caring for their patients while also protecting them from the coronavirus. And Mobiquity has a wealth of experience working with health systems, top hospitals, global pharma companies, and other healthcare providers. We understand the opportunities and the challenges associated with implementing digital solutions, and we’ve helped many organizations create digital experiences that fit a purpose for their staff, patients, and other stakeholders.
Jackie: Do you think that technology will be more widely adopted once the coronavirus pandemic subsides?
Steve: I am extremely confident that these technologies will become an integral part of the healthcare ecosystem even after the pandemic subsides. There are so many ways that technology can improve patient outcomes, from extending the reach of healthcare providers into the home, to lowering the cost of quality care. What is interesting is that these tools are already in place across many industries, with consumers already accustomed to services delivered through mobile, web, voice and other cloud-based technologies. These digital “channels” are providing companies with new ways to reach consumers, particularly when traditional channels are not available, and consumers are having better experiences as a result. Patients want easy access to their providers when they run into an issue. We saw it with the emergence of patient portals that allow patients to keep a log of their appointments, how they are feeling, and even communicate with their doctor. And while in-office visits are definitely needed for some patients, a lot of chronic illnesses can be managed, at least in part, remotely. So, I definitely think that technology is going to evolve and healthcare organizations are going to adapt, especially now that the world is recognizing the value more than ever before.
Jackie: Do you have any other predictions about how the health and life sciences industries will change following the coronavirus?
Steve: While not necessarily a prediction, I do see the impact of telemedicine’s role in expanding access to quality care following the pandemic, from meeting the needs of those that live in rural or remote areas of the country, to those in more metropolitan centers who experience delays in scheduling appointments or finding healthcare providers who are seeing new patients. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there is a growing shortage of physicians today, with a projected gap of more than 120,000 physicians over the next 10 years. Telemedicine could potentially bridge that gap, providing an alternate channel for patient engagement. One example is providing a method for triaging patients before scheduling an office visit, thus saving time and costs. In this way, patients that have the most immediate needs can be prioritized, whether in the office or at the hospital, while others are still able to virtually interact with healthcare professionals to discuss their conditions, course of therapy, and even have a prescription sent to a local pharmacy or mail order provider for refilling.
An added benefit is that telemedicine could create new employment opportunities for those in the healthcare field. Considering the projected gap in physicians and aging population, could telemedicine provide healthcare professionals with the ability to extend or change their own careers by caring for patients virtually? Physicians who would otherwise retire could actually ease their way into retirement, lessening their workload while still providing quality care to patients. Having the ability to stay in the workforce longer, these physicians can make a significant impact on population health while continuing to see patients virtually from their own homes (and patients’ homes). Providing improved access, greater convenience, and lower costs of care while tapping into a wealth of medical knowledge is powerful. The legacy of the coronavirus pandemic and the role that telemedicine is playing will change how we approach healthcare delivery in the future.
Jackie: How will the onset of technology impact patient privacy and security?
Steve: Patient privacy and security have always been hot topics in healthcare. It’s important that we protect our patients' confidentiality at all costs. And if we do see an increased trust in digital solutions like I’m predicting today, security and privacy experts will respond with solutions that enable digital technologies to be secure. At Mobiquity, we’re already doing that. We have security experts on every program to ensure that every one of our clients (and their customers/patients) are protected.
Our thanks to Steve LoSardo for contributing his thoughts to this post.
Mobiquity is a digital consultancy that helps the world’s top companies create meaningful experiences for their customers and employees. Check out our work with clients like Princess Maxima, Wawa, and Nestle.
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