Telehealth Can Thrive with IoT Devices

The following is a guest article by Brian Russell, Solution Architect at Atos.

Because of the shelter-in-place protocols that have been implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote visits to the doctor’s office have transformed from a rarely-used novelty to a necessity in many cases. Telehealth providers are seeing a significant increase in demand and many major insurers are expanding their telehealth offerings. In fact, an 80% year-over-year growth in the telehealth market is anticipated this year.

Experts see several factors driving this growth. First, when the projected rate of infection for COVID-19 among the population was being determined, providers were not able to see patients in the ambulatory setting in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Second, the rates providers are being reimbursed for telehealth visits now have parity with in-office visits. Finally, providers can be more comfortable offering telehealth visits due to the relaxation of HIPAA penalties for privacy violations that historically were a concern for software or equipment that may not have stringent security standards.

However, for many patients, the experience may still be disappointing- a call that may or may not include video and without the normal diagnostic tools that give the provider even basic vital statistics to make a visit effective. With the explosive growth of the Internet of Things, connected healthcare devices could be an essential component of an efficient and effective telehealth program, and making those devices easily accessible could significantly improve the experience for patients.

While the lack of personal touch may initially make some patients skeptical of a remote visit with their health care provider, some patients may find the experience surprisingly comfortable. For example, the current safety protocols requiring personal protective equipment in a public setting can make some patients anxious. For those patients that experience white coat hypertension, the comfort level of being in their own surroundings may also result in a more accurate assessment of overall health.

There are other potential benefits as well. For example, avoiding an in-person visit may prevent the spread of many illnesses from other patients. Parents with small children and the elderly may enjoy the convenience of not having to make the trip to the doctor’s office. Finally, when the doctor isn’t physically able to examine the patient, they’ll need to rely more on the patient to describe symptoms which may result in the patient being more engaged and participatory in their treatment.

However, while simple pieces of equipment to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose, heart rate, etc., are available for home use, most of those devices are not capable of transmitting data. The current video conferencing capabilities many people have on their home computer or cell phone may also be limited by poor image quality which could result in the doctor missing other symptoms such as mild rashes, skin discolorations, or behavioral changes. These challenges provide opportunities within the market to produce healthcare-specific solutions to better address these limitations since access to such IoT devices during telehealth examinations could improve the quality and accuracy of the doctor’s care.

While making these health-related IoT devices available for the entire patient population may be a long-term goal, making them available to the most vulnerable patients is a good initial step. Nursing home patients, for example, might be a critical segment to focus on as many have persistent health issues or chronic diseases that more frequent and accurate checkups from a health care provider could result in improved health and well-being.

For the provider, being able to consult with a concentrated group of patients makes much more efficient use of their time and could allow for more patients to be seen. For other high-risk patients not in a facility, barriers from a lack of familiarity with technology may be overcome if purpose-built, easy-to-use devices with multiple functions to measure standard vital statistics such as blood pressure, blood glucose, heart rate, and oxygen saturation could be provided. In the current environment, the need for such innovation is great and presents a significant opportunity for health equipment manufacturers to help provide a significantly improved experience for their customers.

Clearly, there are many opportunities for IoT devices to help improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and ─ most importantly ─ the availability of healthcare for many patients.

About Brian Russell
As a Solution Architect for Data and Applications at Atos North America, Brian Russell partners with clients to identify and achieve business outcomes of greater efficiency and potentially new revenue streams through the innovative use of technology. Brian has more than 25 years of experience with architecture, implementation and support within mission-critical environments and now focuses on achieving outcomes for customers leveraging the Internet of Things. Russell is responsible for providing technical solutions using the latest connected products and offerings that enable the client’s digital transformation, as well as contributing to the development of Atos’ service portfolio by identifying new IoT-related offerings and products.

About Atos
Atos is a global leader in digital transformation with 120,000 employees in 73 countries and annual revenue of € 11 billion. Atos Positioned as a Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Outsourcing, Hybrid Infrastructure Managed Services, Managed Workplace services, Cloud, Cybersecurity and High-Performance Computing, for Both Europe and North America, the Group provides end-to-end Orchestrated Hybrid Cloud, Big Data, Business Applications and Digital Workplace solutions through its Digital Transformation Factory.

Atos has completed one of the world’s largest hybrid migration and is a leader in hybrid orchestrated cloud for third year in a row according to Gartner Magic Quadrant.

The Atos healthcare business has a vast set of core competencies including a dedicated EHR team with a tremendous amount of experience with Epic and clinical data. This is complimented by the Atos Scientific Community, a global network of 150 scientists, engineers, and industry experts, playing an integral role in defining the solutions, products and innovation we bring to the market.

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