The Internet of Things is Paving the Way for Telemedicine Expansion

internet of things

It seems as if every day new connected devices make their way into consumers’ hands. As the internet of things continues to expand, and its underlying technologies mature, the immediate benefits of data collection on a massive scale have become a reality.

Devices that can collect health data from their users such as the Gear S2, Fitbit and the Apple Watch have enjoyed the media’s spotlight as they begin to save lives with vital signs monitoring. Take for instance the story of Dennis Anselmo, a 62-year-old builder who began feeling uneasy only to discover that his heart rate had skyrocketed to over 210 bpm. With the help of his wearable device, he was able to seek proper medical care. A story, that may not have had a happy ending sans his beloved device.

If the internet of things is already saving lives, what is the hold up?

Devices intended for use in the medical field must undergo FDA approval. This benefits users with superior quality control, unfortunately this also means that the federal government has to process thousands of applications every year. A study conducted by the National Venture Capitalist Assn found that “For low- and moderate-risk devices, the process to navigate the FDA took companies on average three months to two years longer for a green light than it did for a similar approval from European regulators. For higher-risk devices, the discrepancy was greater — the process in the United States took three and a half years, or five times as long as Europe, to grant approval.” This slow and painful process presents serious challenges for consumer OEM’s whose products have yearly life cycles. As the internet of things continues to evolve in accordance with Moore’s law, the FDA must streamline their medical device approval process, or completely overhaul it to make way for the future of medical devices.

If device makers can get consumer devices approved for clinical and medical research purposes in a timely manner, Telemedicine providers such as VirtualERs will be able to gather data in real time from remote patients without the need of expensive equipment. This will not only result in expanded medical care for recipients, but will also improve access for individuals requiring extensive monitoring in rural or inaccessible areas.

Francisco M. Arriaga

Telemedicine Has it’s Perks

telemedicine

As questions about Telemedicine arise, companies and researchers are coming to the rescue with answers. Insurance companies are working diligently to justify costs and reimbursement for Telemedicine patients.

Telemedicine is popping up nationwide and people are starting to reap it’s many benefits. Telemedicine is a hot topic in healthcare, with consumers more willing than ever to see a doctor remotely. “In a national study of over 2,000 consumers, 64% said they would be willing to have a telehealth visit with their doctor via video.” With this knowledge in order to provide more convenient health care options to members, Blue Cross Blue Shield is starting to reimburse some Telemedicine services across the country.

Beginning in December, Blue Cross Blue Shield hopes it will provide more robust treatment options to the rural areas. Many of these services will include, but are not limited to outpatient cardiology, behavioral health, dermatology, infectious diseases and neurology. Many national plans embrace this healthcare innovation and have been steadily increasing coverage through partnerships with telemedicine services companies. This is great news for providers according to Telehealth Index, “as it suggests that over time telemedicine will gain equality footing with in-person consultations across the board. Beyond these laws, the high potential for cost savings in the commercial sector”.

Clinics that have struggled with the reimbursement process for telemedicine services, which has resulted in several unpaid claims, can now bring their much needed services to insured individuals. Nonetheless, reimbursement through private insurance companies is the least confusing and the most promising. With knowledge and experience Telemedicine continues to grow in size and popularity. As insurance companies begin to understand it’s value, American’s across the country will benefit from expanded access to quality medical care.

Alyssa Pasek

Time is Money

time is money

We have all heard the pros and cons of Telemedicine and how it benefits its patients, but we haven’t really heard how it benefits its physicians, and how it is time and money efficient.

The Vermont Veterans Affairs’ use of telemedicine to treat its patients resulted in a large savings for their physicians. Many studies have been conducted, and I am sure we can all understand that time is money, and this facility is saving both. They have found that telemedicine resulted in an average savings of 145 miles and 142 minutes per visit, and as volume in services grew, payment reductions were noticed. Annual travel savings had increased to $63,804, or about 3.5 percent of the total travel pay for that year. An average travel payment savings of $18,555 was saved per year between 2005 and 2013, so I am sure you can see a very positive trend here. Those studying this trend have also determined that Veterans suffering from depression or other health related issues benefitted from Telemedicine visits just as much as face to face visits, and the Telemedicine visits were more convenient due to mobility issues, and fear of social stigma.

We are now realizing that the people we pay to save lives and take care of ourselves as well as our children are now effectively being able to use their time to help others with limited access to healthcare. This is a huge step in the medical industry for its physicians and its patients, and more savings are to come.

Medicine in the On Demand Economy

telehealth

Thanks to the proliferation of on demand services, countless hours waiting for a show to air on television almost seem like a thing of the past. On Demand services such as Netflix and Hulu have transformed the way in which we consume media. So called cord cutters (individuals who discontinue cable TV service) once considered to be a niche, have continued to grow in numbers. And with the debut of HBO Now, consumers have suddenly gained access to real time streaming completely independent of a cable subscription. This trend continues to grow as content distributors seek to expand their audience and cater to the next generations’ preferences.

Mobile devices have given consumers more options for public transport, home delivery services and even apps that can file taxes within 15 minutes. The question remains… Where is the Dr. App? And why am I waiting days for an appointment?

Consumers’ frustration with the healthcare system in the US are very reasonable. Wait times at hospitals can be very long. In addition, costs continue to rise and insurance companies have begun to limit the number of in-network physicians associated with their plans more aggressively. Fortunately, telemedicine has the answers for a lot of these headaches.

Using a Telemedicine product such as Virtual ERs means reduced wait times to see PCPs, fewer unnecessary office and ER visits.  But most importantly, patients can take advantage of the most competitive pricing in the industry. By adapting to our patients we make medicine work for them, on any device of their choosing, while using the communication tools and software they already love.

telemedicine on demand

As these technologies become the norm, and as ISP’s (internet service providers) expand bandwidth capacity around the globe; telemedicine adoption is positioned to explode in the coming years. And maybe, just maybe, future generations can continue to cut cords, skip lines and receive fast, affordable and high quality healthcare.

Francisco M. Arriaga

Healthy Skin is In

Many people like me understand the importance of protecting their skin, and how to live like a vampire in the dark. Skin Cancer is at an all time high, sadly one in five Americans will be a victim of it in the course of their lifetime. It is in fact so common, that most people do not even know they have it until it is too late.

skin cancer day at the beach

Fortunately, researchers in Australia have developed a new online tool to evaluate skin cancer risk. The test is based on ten easy questions, predicts risk level over the next three years and it has been found to be 80% accurate.  QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland are behind this life saving development. Their test asks ten specific questions in order to determine what a person’s chances are of developing skin cancer from age forty and over. Currently this is a consumer tool, but this could eventually be used by healthcare professionals on a larger scale. The questions in the test decipher the following, age, gender, family background, skin type, how one’s skin reacts to the sun, freckles, any previous skin cancer or sun damage and smoker or non-smoker. An estimated risk level is then calculated, ranging from “very much below average,” to “below average,” “within average,” “above average” or “very much above average.” This is not a substitute for visiting the doctor, in fact it is highly recommended that people share this information with their doctors and do their usual follow ups. Data from this test helped the team and healthcare professionals better understand the development of skin cancer. As new skin cancer treatments are developed, this online test could help medical professionals identify with greater accuracy patients who are most at risk, and who may require early intervention. 

sun exposure dermatology skin As technology expands so will our knowledge for cancer, diseases, illnesses, and injuries minor or major. The best advice is to take care of yourself and your skin. Wear sunscreen, avoid long term exposure to UV rays, have spots and moles examined for proper diagnosis, and know your family background. All of these are imperative to prevent skin damage and possible chances of cancer. Healthy skin is in!

Alyssa Pasek