Telemedicine: A Propeller of Value Based Care

By Cletis Earle, CIO, Kaleida Health

Cletis Earle, CIO, Kaleida Health

Telemedicine helps diagnose and treat patients remotely has indeed become a key proponent in helping healthcare move from fee for service to value-based service. As it opens the possibility of extending affordable and swift clinical care, to anywhere, anytime, it has indeed come to push healthcare beyond the four walls of hospitals. Telemedicine for all its potential is certainly the future of healthcare.

Evolution of Telemedicine

Telemedicine has undergone a series of changes from telemedicine systems which were highly expensive when they first came out to today where it has become extended clinical care to the patient’s household. However, what is important to note is the robustness of the transformation. Telemedicine has very swiftly come to witness the availability of advanced technological solutions as telehealth tools. For instance, digital products such as Profox Sensors, Fitbit Surge, PIP, and more have not only come to facilitate the collection of critical health information from anywhere but also enable the integration of data to patient's EMRs, thus, contributing to further development of telehealth’s diagnostic capability.

"My advice to CIOs in the arena is to think outside the status quo, and push every boundary to improve the care of patients"

As telemedicine facilitates the extension of healthcare abilities to people all over the globe, I believe it has opened up an excellent venture for learning and expanding the horizons of medical knowledge. It is contributing to the exchange of new medical procedures, exposure to a wider variety of health conditions, and extension of technological solutions across the continuum.

Application of Data Solutions to Telemedicine

The intersection of telemedicine and data analytics is fascinating. Although the utilization of data analytics in healthcare is still in a budding stage, it, however, has come to offer a number of benefits such as the increased capacity to predict patient’s condition, ability to carry out insight-driven decisions, improvement of population health, and more. Coming to data analytics’ specific application to telehealth, I envision it to open a plethora of options to both the patients and physicians. While the patient could use the analytics-driven telemedicine application to make a comprehensive understanding of health condition and engage in self-care, the physician can use the value based insights to carry out sound medical decisions.

Emerging Trends in Telemedicine

As AI driven predictive modeling has already come to show great promise in powering care providers to a second opinion, I see AI as the future of telemedicine. We already have companies like IBM who are exploring such modeling for oncology, tracing through tons and tons of data to draw valuable breakthroughs. I envision a time where AI will be leveraged to provide sharp details in acute care settings, and more so towards ambulatory care. I see AI's assistance in laying out robust co-relations to help providers diagnose in the right direction.

Areas Requiring Improvement

As we see a growing integration of patient monitoring devices to telemedicine systems, I believe there is a great need to rightly determine the data from these devices, accurately navigating the patients’ points of care, and have adequate knowledge to get the patient to the right care. So it is a collection of different services that one needs to be good, to be efficient. One just can't think of monitoring patients without having the right preparation to handle every point of care. For in cases of contingency, it requires the need to collect and consolidate all the resources to provide a really robust and dynamic care continuum.

Challenges Encountering the Optimal Delivery of Telemedicine

When it comes to healthcare, there is no one size that fits all. The application of a specific technology, in this instance telemedicine, is dependent on a number of factors be they geographical conditions, kind of patient populations, economic conditions, and more, hitherto, making the challenges of telehealth a relative concept.

However, having made the above point, what’s required is deliberation and cataloging of various technological components applied to telemedicine. As to how does one system impact the other, understanding how the different types of systems co-ordinate or from the scheduling side, see how various organizations are utilizing the air traffic controller model.

The efficiency of the air traffic controller model depends on access to all the elements, the scheduling systems, and all the different types of solutions that a healthcare provider has throughout the continuum. What’s needed is to figure out a solution to connect e-catalog, the dots between different systems, and then eventually, consolidate the diverse systems. The efficiency can only be achieved by making a judicious collection of tools, standardization across the continuity of care, and finally making a robust connection of all systems.

Envisioning Telemedicine in the Coming Years

The path towards the positive progress of telemedicine requires reforms and transformations in a number of directions. It starts with the federal government and payers changing the conventional approach and try figuring out a way to compensate providers for offering telemedicine. Once there is a better return on making investments in telemedicine, there will spontaneously be an increased delivery of telehealth.

Second, the telehealth providers will have to eventually start reducing the prices of telehealth systems and make them more nimble. With the android driven mobile devices offering more and more services at lower costs, there is an increasing pressure on the manufactures to make their solutions mobile.

Third, the progress of telehealth doesn’t just apply to the technology; there is a need for positive changes on the financial front, the procurement side as well as on the sustainability, to make real advantages of the future disruptions.

Advice to the Aspiring CIOs in Telemedicine Arena

My advice to CIOs in the arena is to think outside the status quo and push every boundary to improve the care of patients. Although the traditional efforts are handy, however, as a technologist, I believe it is incumbent on us to be innovative. Not necessarily in the sense of creation but to look at the same thing differently. I ask the CIOs to constantly push their roles, for the success of telemedicine is not just dependent on IT. It, more importantly, relies on the belief of doctors and care providers, for a specific solution to be adopted. So I encourage the CIOs to constantly learn and push relationships, listen to clinicians, customers, patients and never be afraid to explore other solutions. The solution is not the most advanced technology but a technology which works best for your specific community.