Until recently, the idea of intelligent, face-to-face interactions at the press of a button, from anywhere, belonged to the realm of science fiction. But that’s no longer the case. In just a handful of years, the breathtaking convergence of mobile, telemedicine, the Internet of Things and AI has availed patients of healthcare services that were once thought to be confined to the Holodeck.
Today, you can schedule virtual doctor visits, consult with specialists thousands of miles away and complete telemetry-assisted wellness programs from the comfort of home, or wherever you happen to be. A qualitative leap into the future of ubiquitous, connected healthcare is on our doorstep. But what does that mean for telemedicine in the decade to come?
In the near term, the adoption and expansion of critical care and ambulatory services will race to catch up with consumer demand. At least 20 million Americans will use telemedicine across the continuum of care in 2017 alone, while over 75% of potential patients express interest in virtual access to providers of their choice.
This burgeoning appetite for telemedicine – estimated to reach $78.3 billion by 2025, according to a report from Research and Markets – is driven by widespread mobile adoption combined with the personal connection and convenience of video technology. Today’s patient is well acquainted with the ease and convenience of app-based services. Tomorrow’s patient will expect the same level of convenience, along with around-the-clock availability to connect face-to-face with medical professionals from mobile devices.
Entrepreneurial developers already build healthcare apps to meet tomorrow’s expectations with vidyo.io, seamlessly embedding high-quality video communications into apps that support new categories of preventive, outpatient and acute care. By 2020, the diversification of these mobile offerings will expand telemedicine throughout domains from chronic disease management and cardiology to neurology, psychiatry and wellness.
In the mid-term, insurers and providers will work to replace state-by-state regulations for billing and reimbursement with national standards following the industry-wide shift to value-based care. Meanwhile, increasing competition will elevate the most successful provider strategies, rewarding innovators who succeed at connecting their patients to the best, most advanced care possible.
Ten years from now, the Internet of Things and a new wave of high-tech virtual and augmented reality devices will give shape to even more “sci-fi” experiences. Physicians may visit patients as holographic avatars, inspecting high-fidelity renderings of actual symptoms in real-time. Developments in wearable technology and haptic feedback could give rise to remote physical examinations, reducing the costly spread of infectious diseases known to thrive in hospital environments.
Even more far out – if not far off – are the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in telemedicine. Beyond uses for connecting with the IoT and integrating and managing real-time data in EHR systems, AIs could analyze patient videos, identify problematic symptoms and model treatment results. AI’s ability to translate observations into actionable data at unheard of speeds should prove to be a prime contributor to the next decade’s revolution in convenient, effective and affordable healthcare.
Of course, there’s no reason to wait for AI to steal the headlines. Whether you’re a provider looking to implement scalable, interoperable video into your current solutions or a developer working on the frontier of telemedical apps and applications, what is clear is that the convergence of technologies is throwing the doors wide open for what’s next in telemedicine.