As fun as it is to add puppy ears to a selfie and send it to a friend, we all can agree that the marvels of digital technology we carry in our pockets were meant for so much more. Telehealth harnesses the full capabilities of such devices in service of our health and well-being. Still, if gadgets get you excited, rest assured that telehealth innovators do not disappoint. Simply consider their therapeutic functions to be an added bonus. These six telehealth innovations represent the sheer inspiration and ingenuity that still fuels our progress as healthcare providers in the 21st century.
Why start small? Let’s begin with an honest-to-goodness robot! Telestroke, teleICU, telepysch and telepediatric programs are already using the RP-VITA, the first FDA-approved telemedicine robot by InTouch Health and iRobot. With the robot’s state-of-the-art telecommunications and AutoDrive technology, doctors and nurses are able to focus solely on patient care while it operates independently. The robot can even be a remote stand-in for one doctor and collaborate with another doctor.
Have you ever fooled around with one of those gimmicky massage chairs at one of those stores in the mall? They’re fun but no one buys them. That’s because they’re useless and not worth the money. Now, imagine if one of those chairs wielded a vast array of biosensors to measure basic vital signs, including weight, blood pressure, temperature, blood oxygen saturations, motion analysis and reflex response time. ComwellMedical’s Health-e-Chair can do all of that and even incorporates a communication unit with a remotely controlled camera. The patient only has to sit in the chair and let a remote clinician do the work.
Many telehealth firms cater to the elder care industry. Placement of this technology in nursing homes is revolutionizing how we care for our seniors. Diabetes remains a formidable foe these days, especially among that population. The disease remains one of the leading causes of blindness, which stems from a diabetes-related condition known as retinopathy. EyePrevent, from optical imaging firm i-Optics, allows for remote expert interpretation via the EasyScan Retinal Imaging System. Diabetic retinopathy evaluation rates have improved thanks to telehealth. The device itself looks no different than ones you would see when visiting an optometrist, with a place to rest your chin and a lens to look into. The one advantage, however, is that EyePrevent does not require pupil dilation. That means you won’t have to wear those funky sunglasses!
Some innovations are not exactly devices. Avery Telehealth has a Readmission Avoidance Program. Considering the fact that reducing hospital re admissions is the number-one money saving facet and selling point of telehealth, this program is a very welcome innovation. One estimate tells us that 75 percent of all hospital re-admissions are preventable. As it is, one in five Medicare patients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge. One in three are readmitted within 90 days. So what is Avery Telehealth’s response?
Their Re-admission Avoidance Program focuses on proactive care transition planning, patient-centric post-discharge care coordination and remote telehealth monitoring. The program serves as hub, essentially. Between the patient’s primary care provider and other community health providers, care is coordinated. The platform even executes hospital discharge orders. Re-admissions for patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have dramatically decreased thanks to this program.
Reducing re-admissions is not the only hot topic in telehealth conversations. Using technology to reach under-served rural areas has always been a primary telehealth application. Participants primarily include pediatric primary care physicians and nurse practitioners who oversee the care for school children. In these cases, the telemedicine technology gives children access to basic primary care services. The Georgia Partnership for Telehealth has set up 13 school-based health clinics to do just that. Going to see the school nurse just got a bit more exciting!
Speaking of kids, it is hard to find one without an I-Pad within arms-reach these days. Schools even use them as learning tools. Their usefulness, however, is apparent to people of all ages. In the continued effort to see patients where they are at, video collaboration firm VSee makes it easy for a patient to have a televisit with a doctor via one-click videoconferencing. Once the patient is interacting with a doctor, further technology such as stethoscopes, ultrasounds, x-rays and more can be integrated.
You may already be thinking of another innovation that ends in “On-The-Spot”. While that one is certainly indispensable at county fairs and construction sites, HealthSpot has introduced its HealthSpot Station, a private and enclosed kiosk from which a patient can have access to high-quality medical diagnostics at any time. That means easy access to follow-up treatment with providers with the aid of face-to-face dialogue. HealthSpot stations can already be located at employer sites, universities and other locations.
Athene Telehealth enjoys a competitive role in the technology race that drives the field of telemedicine. However, it also retains its sole focus on the patient-physician relationship, without which that race would be a non-event. If you are a healthcare provider or a patient, and you wish to discuss telehealth in more detail, please contact us at your earliest convenience.