Accelerating the Advancement of Telemedicine

  • Celestica  |
  • 2020-08-14
Telemedicine

While the global healthcare industry fights the coronavirus, it's also demonstrating how innovations in telemedicine and remote patient monitoring technologies will make high quality, affordable healthcare accessible to more people worldwide.

Alexander Matthews, Director of  Business Development, HealthTech, and James Jonakin, Director of Sales, HealthTech at Celestica, share their perspectives on how the pandemic is impacting the advancement of telemedicine.

Hospitals across the globe began admitting COVID-19 patients during the early days of the pandemic and people who needed to see their doctors regarding other conditions had to avoid making in-person visits. The same social distancing policies that governed virtually every other aspect of their work and personal lives also applied to their next doctor appointments.  

As a result, there was a surge in doctors meeting with their patients virtually. For example, telemedicine platform provider Teladoc Health reported that in March it conducted more than 20,000 remote medical appointments a day -- more than twice the average daily volume of visits before the pandemic struck. 

Now that infection rates are falling in many regions of the world, health officials are encouraging anyone who needs help for urgent non-COVID-19 health issues to visit hospitals and emergency clinics. But more people and their physicians have come to realize that virtual doctor consultations save patients time and money without sacrificing the quality of care. When the pandemic fades away, telemedicine solutions will continue to make quality healthcare accessible to more people worldwide and reduce the burden on healthcare infrastructure. 

Remote Patient Monitoring 
The widespread adoption of telemedicine technologies requires both healthcare professionals and consumers to embrace the use of remote patient monitoring devices that provide doctors with the data they need to make accurate diagnoses, track and identify potential issues earlier and deliver medication at home. 

Celestica works with healthcare manufacturers that incorporate the sophisticated features and functionalities of equipment doctors typically use in hospitals into portable devices that patients can use at home, or wear 24/7. 

These remote patient monitoring devices are far more complex than off-the-shelf fitness trackers and smartwatches. They incorporate A.I. and machine learning (ML) technologies to not only analyze a constant stream of real-time data, but “learn” about the individual wearer’s health condition over time. This enables doctors to examine their patients remotely and make specific diagnoses, prescribe drugs, and recommend courses of treatment. 

For example, BodyPort's connected scale detects and measures cardiac signals through the user's feet. Vital Connect's VitalPatch® personal health monitoring device continually measures a wide range of the wearer's vital signs and automatically provides the data to the wearer's doctor. Bardy Diagnostics' CAM Patch heart monitoring technology is a highly accurate electrocardiogram (ECG) device that shares its data with providers. And Medtronic has developed several connected diabetes management devices that help patients predict and prevent glucose level fluctuations. 

Enabling Better Patient Outcomes 
These products hint at a time when patients are in more control over their healthcare. They will be empowered to be more proactive in preventing the onset of chronic diseases and reduce their healthcare costs.

Patients will also have more choices in providers as the private and public sectors work together to expand access to telemedicine platforms. Much progress has already been made on that front during the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Columbia and Ontario governments in Canada took the unprecedented step of allowing virtual doctor visits through private sector-developed telemedicine applications. The U.S. federal government loosened HIPAA regulations to allow Medicare reimbursement for medical consultations using telemedicine technologies and eliminated barriers that once prevented doctors from practicing across state borders. Countries across Europe took similar red-tape cutting measures, including France’s waiving of a policy that required healthcare professionals to know patients before teleconsultation with suspected COVID-19 patients.

Achieving these goals has become a significant factor in the development of innovative healthcare monitoring products – ensuring they get to market quickly and cost-effectively while also meeting performance and quality standards. In parallel, we are seeing an increase in investments to accelerate the development of high-speed communications networks and the cloud computing and enterprise technologies required to support data collection, storage, and management services.

The advancement of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring technologies will also influence how healthcare product manufacturers interact with regulatory bodies on the approval of new products and shape the laws and regulations governing their use. 

A Vision of the New Normal
The on-going convergence of multiple technologies such as 5G, IoT, Big Data analytics, miniaturization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning - to name but a handful - accelerates the development of telemedicine platforms and remote patient monitoring technologies. We’re also seeing a similar acceleration in the development of the cloud and enterprise infrastructures necessary to store and manage these ever-growing volumes of data. This raises data privacy, security and regulatory concerns that must be addressed before the innovative new products and services become available.

Innovation is coming from startups and established players. It’s driven by the growing acceptance of telemedicine applications and the promise they hold of delivering improved patient care while ensuring patient privacy. 

Telemedicine and the telehealth industry is no longer a future thought. It is here, it is now and it is the new norm. Together, Celestica is working with healthcare industry customers, supply chain network partners, and regulatory agencies to fight the coronavirus while also making great strides towards enabling better patient outcomes.