After COVID-19 times we really know that telemedicine is more and more convenient for healthcare professionals and patients alike. The future of healthcare depends on the new age of technology.
The World Health Organization defines telemedicine as follows: The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.
Telemedicine dates back to the mid to late nineteenth century, with one of the first reported accounts taking place in the early twentieth century when electrocardiograph data were transferred over telephone wires. Telemedicine as we know it now began in the 1960s, fueled in large part by the military and space technology industries. Early technological milestones in telemedicine include the use of television between specialists at a psychiatric institute and general practitioners at a state mental hospital.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the potential to allow both developed and developing countries to offer accessible, cost-effective, and high-quality health care services. According to a recent report by PwC, in Central-Eastern Europe, almost 60% of adult patients declare their willingness to either begin or continue using some form of telemedicine solutions, including (but not limited to): telemedicine consultation, monitoring, diagnostics, and/or rehabilitation.
PwC predicts that the telemedicine market will continue to expand dynamically, reflecting the already enormous and constantly growing demand, as well as the increasing accessibility of the underlying communication technologies.
Observing the market and its needs, we would not be ourselves if we did not prepare a set of the most important functionalities and features that applications and platforms in the medical field should have to make care more cost-efficient and effective.
In addition to usability, the app must be accessible to audiences with certain disabilities and the elderly. In this case, user research is particularly important, since problems in using the app by people with disabilities may not be obvious to healthy people.
For example, in the case of visually impaired people, methods of controlling the app by voice or vibration can be used. The use of standard gestures, naming, and interface layout will also make it much easier to use the app, since for visually impaired people, operating the app is largely memory-based.
When creating mobile applications for the iOS platform, you can use the “Accessibility Programming Guide for iOS.” The iOS system has a built-in VoiceOver voice screen reader, screen zooming, color inversion, and many other accessibility options. In this case, the system itself provides many conveniences for people with visual impairments.
The design of Android applications is similar – here, too, we have the option of system-wide adjustment of size or contrast, the use of a Braille keyboard, or voice control. To design applications on Android systems you can use the “Accessibility Scanner” application, which scans the screen and displays suggestions for accessibility, taking into account elements such as:
- content labels
- the size of the target touch element
- clickable elements
- text and image contrast
Leading-edge telemedicine platforms can – and should – become integrated with emergency medical service (EMS) systems. This allows emergency medicine providers to deliver care at the EMS scene, thus avoiding unnecessary transportation and expense. Moreover, platforms for telemedicine may be integrated with health providers’ websites. This way, patients can book and access a telemedicine consultation using their existing login credentials, while providers can then use a single system to schedule telemedicine appointments, document patient contacts, view past records, prescribe medicines, and issue discharge instructions. Finally, EMS providers or nursing home personnel can use integrated telemedicine platforms to get physician consultations and complete treatment for patients in extended care facilities, potentially lowering the number of expensive transportation to the emergency department.
One example is provided by the application SYGMO for COVID-19, developed by WIM in cooperation with casusBTL Group. SYGMO for COVID-19 is an application integrated with a telemedical system; the application allows for self-diagnosing, and is accessible both from mobile and desktop devices, while the telemedical platform provides an analysis of the symptoms, as well as telemedical consultation with medical specialists.
Healthcare organizations that adopt telehealth must be ready to implement tight authentication policies and procedures in order to provide strong identity verification. The nature of healthcare considerably raises the possibility for serious consequences, such as medical blunders, patient privacy violations, and cybersecurity issues, hence remote user ID verification in healthcare brings particular challenges. Virtual healthcare is a tempting target for hackers because it provides a wealth of susceptible data and generally takes place on patients’ personal devices.
According to a Pew Charitable Trust survey, 61% of Americans desire mobile access to their health data.
Patients must download specialized digital wallets — commonly referred to as patient passports — that securely authenticate their credentials for quick and frictionless access to care as part of decentralized identity verification. Patients’ personally identifying information is never stored or copied using this decentralized methodology, thus after initial verification with photo IDs, patient passports give future access with a single click and provide various benefits, including confirmation of identity and reduced data breach risks. In the case of the Comarch HealthNote Application (now MojeZdrowie24), the patient’s data is stored on a dedicated cloud system Comarch EHR. The latter is based on security protocols, specifically designed for medical purposes, that guarantee maximal data safety. Accessing the data requires the user to set a unique mobile access PIN, and a password; alternatively, the personal database can be unlocked using a fingerprint or a face ID. Access to the patient’s data by the medical personnel is only possible upon prior authorization by the patient.
Feedback and patient experience
Virtual technology may connect patients with the most skilled and qualified doctors. It has now become increasingly common for healthcare consumers to rely on patient reviews when making decisions concerning the services and providers that are the right fit for them. According to the 2022 Healthcare Trends Report, compiled by YouGov on behalf of Reputation, when it comes to choosing healthcare, 50% of participants read ten or more reviews, and 23% read 20 or more. Furthermore, 65% of respondents believe it is critical for physicians to reply publicly to patient reviews. According to the survey, patient feedback can help establish brand loyalty and encourage people to choose their providers. It is hence extremely important that telemedicine platforms and applications allow for patient reviews, requesting feedback on e.g. wait times, staff friendliness, and ease of scheduling appointments.
Effective implementation of telemedical solutions often requires an ambitious rethinking of the operating system, and redesigning many of its key aspects, for instance:
- The scope and the model of the offered services, as well as the specific price model,
- Specifics of the approach to customer acquisition (involving e.g. CRM systems, cross-selling and upselling),
- Cooperation with the medical personnel (highly sensitive to the degree of integration of the telemedical solutions in question), and possible joint-venture solutions,
- Designing the organizational structures for future services.
Each of these elements may vary depending on the details of the business model in question, i.e. the types of the offered medical services (diagnostics/consultations/preventive care/other), and the types of technological solutions employed (mobile applications/data transfer/AI-based algorithms).
According to a recent survey conducted in the United States, 56% of hospital and health system officials wish to boost telemedicine spending over the next two years, indicating that the sector’s decision-makers expect current developments to endure. Over 80% of clinicians believe that investing in fully integrated virtual or hybrid care systems will improve clinical outcomes and patient experiences, and 75% of payers believe that having access to virtual care data and insights through a single digital platform will streamline member experiences, improve patient outcomes, and support the development of innovative models of care coordination and delivery. Clinicians also revealed their perceptions of the main benefits of virtual care: 82% said it improved patient access, 53% said it boosted efficiency, and 51% said it improved patient experiences.
The global telehealth market was estimated to be worth $62.4 billion by 2021 and grow to $89.3 billion by 2022. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43.7% between 2022 and 2028, reaching a value of $787.4 billion by the end of that period. Telehealth thus appears to be a viable option for care and is likely to remain so in the future. The strong uptake of this technology, overall positive consumer perception, the favorable regulatory environment, and strong investment are all contributing to the high rate of adoption of this technology.