Current healthcare systems were not built with the patient’s convenience or experience in mind. But technology is changing the patient experience, and providing opportunities for medicine to cater more towards patient experience and accessibility.
Globally, virtual care is growing from an $18.1B industry in 2015 to a $41.2B industry by 2021. This helps provide patients with access to HCPs, oftentimes not as a replacement for an in-person clinic visit, but as the only way the patient will see an HCP. To go to an in-person clinic visit, patients need to take a half day or more off school or work, find a way to transport themselves to the clinic, which could take many hours if they are in a rural area, and in some cases, could provide a financial hardship if they are paid hourly at their job. In addition, even if a patient is already located near a clinic, the obstacles of taking the time to go to the clinic may deter the patient from talking to an HCP at all.
Virtual care can be a first step on a patient journey, helping direct the patient to appropriate, personalized in-person care, whether that’s an ER or a specialist. It’s especially helpful for patients who are unsure if they should go to the ER, and might otherwise put off going to the hospital. If a physician on video says they should be seen, that can serve as huge motivation for a patient to go to the ER.
It can also help patients manage conditions over a long period of time. Companies like Fruit Street are using video virtual visits, plus a robust platform, to help patients manage pre-diabetes. With proper behavior change, these patients can potentially avoid having diabetes. But the problem is, behavior change is hard, especially without help. The CDC has a diabetes Prevention Program, and because of advances in wearable tech, video virtual care and smartphone cameras, companies like Fruit Street can administer this program virtually, reaching many more patients, and most importantly, constantly checking in on them like a coach. Patients can be tracked by video sessions, wearable devices and uploading photos of their food.
Making healthcare available where we are, and on our timelines, means dramatically increased access, which can improve outcomes. Beyond virtual care, there are a lot of technological innovations that help collect clinical grade data on patients in their everyday environments.
There are a lot of CE and FDA approved point of care diagnostics and clinical grade wearables on the market already. For instance, HealthWatch has a 12 lead EKG monitoring shirt that can be worn in the ICU, and sent home with the patient, even thrown in the washing machine. That solves 2 major problems for a patient. First, by eliminating the wires from the EKG monitor, that frees up the patient in the hospital bed. One of the hardest things about being in a hospital bed is the number of wires and tubes holding you down – it is hard both physically and emotionally. Even a small movement could cause pain, needles moving, catheters rubbing, adhesives pulling hair – you feel like a prisoner. Clothing that monitors biodata allows the patient to move again. Just as importantly, it allows the patient to go home earlier, as the physician has reliable, real-time ICU quality data from the patient in their home environment, and can discharge instead of holding a patient purely for monitoring purposes.
© Robin Farmanfarmaian All rights reserved.