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CES 2021: Will the Meteoric Rise of Telemedicine Continue Post-Covid?

CES 2021: Will the Meteoric Rise of Telemedicine Continue Post-Covid?
"Everyone went from asking what telehealth was, to thinking of virtual care as the future." (Credit: MedWand)

The meteoric rise of telemedicine has been instrumental in maintaining healthcare throughout the pandemic, but whether demand will continue to grow post-Covid remains to be seen. Conference sessions at this year’s Virtual CES 2021 discussed the longevity of telecare and its role in filling the gap left by overwhelmed healthcare professionals after the pandemic.

Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc Health, explained during a session entitled “Telemedicine Skyrockets to Mainstream,” how even the global company was taken by surprise. He said:

“Overnight our volume literally doubled. Everyone went from asking what telehealth was, to thinking of virtual care as the future. We always thought this was inevitable—we just didn’t think it would happen overnight and that it would take a global pandemic to be the catalyst.”

Breaking the Model

Teladoc now has 7,000 physicians operating in 30 languages and treating people across the world via the internet. It expects to complete 10 million appointments this year. Gorevic explained:

“Everything from acute episodic situations to chronic conditions; both mental and physical health are accessed equally well through virtual care. Telemedicine can provide continuity and match patients with the right therapist and method of treatment, regardless of geographical distances. Text, chat, phone, video and online modules can all be used interchangeably. The technology enables us to break the models and rebuild them in ways that are much better.”

He added:

“In the future, people are going to look to virtual healthcare for all of their healthcare needs—not just a slice.”

Varsha Rao, CEO of Nurx, an end-to-end telehealth platform for women’s health, including contraception, agreed. She observed:

“The home has become the hub for health across all demographics. We see that telehealth has gone from a second or third option to a first-choice option, especially for millennials and Gen Z who are so comfortable with technology.”

“The disparity bridge needs to be crossed: telehealth can only help if the technology is accessible.” (Credit: MedWand)

Iris Berman, VP Telehealth Services for Northwell Health, in New York, suggested virtual health had a key role to play in integrated care for hard-to-reach patients in inner cities, as well as rural areas. She said:

“Telehealth became the way to get healthcare to some of these people during the pandemic. But there are still problems to solve: the disparity bridge needs to be crossed—telehealth can only help if the technology is accessible. But I believe that in the future it will only be the sickest of the sick—those needing the larger machines—who will be in hospitals. Everything else will be in the home. We were moving in that direction anyway and Covid has expedited it by seven years at least.”

Handheld Diagnostics

Samir Qamar, CEO of MedWand, discussed his telehealth service and its use of a handheld device, during the conference session “Telehealth: Augmenting the Experience with Technology.”

The MedWand device features diagnostic tools, including a digital stethoscope, otoscope, dermatoscope, throat illuminator with camera, ECG and pulse oximeter. Patients pay a monthly subscription fee for the device and access to the service, including appointments with professionals who are able to read the results. The key to successful telemedicine is the accuracy of connected devices; ease of use for patients and clinicians, and effective software integration. He said:

“When you are seeing a patient thousands of miles away, you have to have trust in the device that is harvesting the data and relaying it to you. Regulatory issues when you are crossing borders can be a major barrier to the expansion of telehealth. But I think that as soon as this catches up you are going to see an explosion in all sorts of different ways.”

READ ALSO |  The Covid-19 Crisis Has Broken Down Barriers Around Telemedicine

 

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