The ongoing pandemic has resulted in reduced human contact, disrupted the supply chain of businesses, and created the critical need for cutting-edge technological tools and innovation in every industry. The healthcare industry is no exception, and is experiencing a high rate of technology and big data led transformation.
Emergence of telemedicine in the post pandemic times
Telemedicine, powered by analytics, is one of the most vital disruptions in the healthcare industry. It allows healthcare providers to overcome physician shortages and geographical barriers, enhance patient care, thereby allowing health systems and physician practices to focus more on chronic disease management, patient wellness, and improving healthcare efficiency. And an effective backbone of any telemedicine arrangement is collection, collation and analysis of huge amounts of data.
The global telemedicine market is projected to grow massively by 2026. According to a report by Transparency Market Research, the global telehealth market was valued at just over $7.0 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.7% to $19.5 billion in 2025.The North American telehealth market is the largest segment, making up 41% of the market in 2016, followed by Europe (27.5%), Asia Pacific (18.7%), Latin America (7.2%), and the Middle East and Africa (4.9%).
While telehealth solutions are quite effective on their own, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) can further enhance their effectiveness and efficiency. Based on thousands of cases, software that automatically collects, processes, and analyzes a significant amount of data can make suggestions on the best treatment approaches. Physicians can use demographic and regional data in addition to personal patient information to deliver the best possible care.
Telehealth solutions collect a lot of data, which researchers can use to ascertain how age, socio-economic position, symptoms, and other factors influence the treatment's outcome. These trials eventually assist clinicians around the world in prescribing the most effective drugs and making data-driven treatment decisions.
Challenges in implementing telemedicine
The majority of businesses provide health plans that include telemedicine services, but the fact that these services are underutilized suggests that access to telemedicine does not imply usage. Other than low utilization, the lack of awareness also impedes the adoption of telemedicine. According to a study conducted by Credit Suisse, around 46% of employers reported employee utilization rates of less than 5%. The study further revealed that 10% of the respondents had never heard of telehealth, 59% said they had never used it, and 31% said they preferred face-to-face doctor appointments.
Trust is the most important factor in the healthcare sector. Patients feel that telehealth will eliminate the trust factor due to lack of a face-to-face meet. However, reports reveal that healthcare personnel are more hesitant than patients when it comes to telemedicine adoption, owing to concerns about the high cost of technology and the trustworthiness of virtual treatment.
The most significant challenge in the telemedicine market is the ambiguity around reimbursements. The current reimbursement laws are based on the patient's and healthcare providers' geographic locations. The lack of standardization in parity laws and regulations results in insecurity among both stakeholders, resulting in reluctance towards telemedicine.
Opportunities in the telemedicine segment
Telemedicine is one of the fastest growing segments in healthcare, and presents immense opportunities to reinvent through the power of data and analytics. With the ongoing pandemic and beyond, it is bound to become a ultra low-cost alternative to expensive out patient emergency services, besides driving deeper penetration of healthcare. The continuously evolving and newer technology trends will make telemedicine easier, including for those who are not techncally savvy.
With the power of big data, telemedicine will soon become a true care delivery option for managing patients with chronic medical illnesses and behavioral health co-morbidities as well as for rural and under served communities in developing countries. Primarily because the customer acquisition cost for an existing patient is nl, more and more health care providers are offering to diagnose illnesses and medical conditions by computer and smartphone.
- Mobile health: The mhealth industry stood at $46,048 million in 2019, and is expected to reach $230,419 million by 2027, with a CAGR of 22.3% from 2020 to 2027. The data collected by these devices can be used to drive meaningful insights about a patient and shared with other healthcare professionals for consultation and study.
- Collaboration with health plan vendors: Telemedicine can realize its full potential when it comes as a covered benefit in healthcare plans. These plans can be used to educate people about the benefits and offerings of telemedicine.
- Artificial intelligence (AI): AI powered medical transcription utilizes natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition technologies to carve out relevant medical information and store it in a specific format.
Solutions to leverage telemedicine effectively
Despite several challenges in the industry, there are numerous solutions that organizations can use to achieve benefits from providing telemedicine services -
- Privacy solutions: Data obtained through telemedicine and medical transcription services should be secured, and health care professionals should always communicate with patients via a secure connection. They should request patients' consent before recording and preserving video calls.
- Targeted marketing campaigns: Companies can create awareness of telehealth services by using tailored, interactive content, social media marketing, email newsletters, and blogs.
- Artificial intelligence and natural language processing: Traditional medical transcription includes manually converting speech and consultation history into text format. The entire process is time-consuming and prone to human mistakes. AI and NLP are used to automate this process.
- Big data analytics: Vast amounts of data generated through a surfeit of tech enabled devices has given a big boost to the health informatics. Telemedicine providers can implement analytics services and utilize descriptive analytics to generate monthly reports including the number of visits, diagnosis, and prescriptions.
Interactive and meaningful dashboards with relevant interpretations can be created using descriptive analytics and BI tools, data exploration techniques can be used to discover trends and their causes from data collected by various tools.
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Despite the various benefits telemedicine offers such as significant cost reduction, increased access to health care, reduced burden on health care systems and enhanced operational efficiency, the adoption of telemedicine is limited. Lack of awareness, reluctance, trust, and privacy issues have constrained the growth of the industry, but these challenges can be overcome with the help of interactive marketing and awareness campaigns, implementing technologies such as advanced analytics and artificial Intelligence. These investments can provide a competitive edge to healthcare organizations and help in gaining significant market share.