Innovations in USA Telehealth


Human hand touching robot hand

In the USA, urban dwellers and city slickers generally avail of healthcare services with minimal disruption to their daily lives due to local availability. However, this is not the case for 59 million Americans who live in rural areas, miles from the nearest healthcare provider.

The result? 59 million Americans are potentially at risk of poorer treatment. Undeniably, one method that mitigates the risk is telehealth. By its very nature, telehealth provides an effective and feasible alternative to the traditional in-person provision of healthcare services. This access issue for 20% of Americans, among other factors, has resulted in a positive and seismic momentum across many disciplines and locations for providers of telehealth.

According to a recent report by Grand View Research Inc., U.S. telehealth market is expected to reach USD $2.8 billion by 2022. Coupled with the increasingly affirmed view that implementation of telehealth solutions improves quality of care delivery to patients, the foundations for a hugely successful and effective change have been laid.

Of course, no major developments are without their occasional roadblock. One of these being the United States. federal legal system. While some states have made huge advances in implementation, the laws in many states have either been slow to materialise, or haven’t been passed at all. This leaves very apparent disparities between states, and a patchwork of law surrounding the industry, particularly in relation to reimbursement of service providers.


Increased Reach

However, as we have seen with many other countries, the best signs for telehealth implementation come from grass roots communities. For example, the Hancock County Healthcare Access Initiative. Hancock County, in Georgia, is a remote community where the only healthcare service in the area is the local ambulance or the community care centre. To combat their access issues, telehealth has come to the fore.

The basis of the initiative is to equip staff at the Community Health Systems clinic with telehealth kits. Residents would then be able to dial a toll-free number, and a nurse would visit the caller’s home in a WiFi-enabled van to conduct a virtual visit with the center.

“It’s a way to bring some healthcare to people who don’t often see it, but who do need it” says Dr. Jean Sumner, dean of the Mercer University School of Medicine and spearhead of the project.

Given the context, this type of service is vital for the people of Georgia. With a lower-income population generally living up to 60 miles away from the nearest hospital, simple access is a major issue. Couple this with a serious chronic health issue or the escalation of minor illnesses due to lack of early diagnosis, and the urgent need for telehealth here, and in many other states is blindingly apparent.

Admirable projects all across the US, like this particular example in Georgia, have become terrific examples of community-led change in healthcare provisions, with larger institutions also taking note.


Reducing Re-admissions

Avery Telehealth has also developed the 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.


Other Telehealth Innovations

The Robot

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.

The Chair

Once the stuff of science fiction, there are now chairs that can offer basic medical assessments- built with 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 this 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.

What Can The Private Practitioner Do To Keep Abreast Of These Advances?

As a society, our advances in technology have allowed us to make dramatic and innovative changes in accessing vital services. Christine Calouro, of the Center for Connected Health Policy notes that progress has been encouraging. “In the future”, she said to Healthcare Analytic News, “the goal should be not to look at telehealth as its own unique means of care, but rather an inherent tool for providers, a guaranteed element of the healthcare system”.

As health practitioners, telehealth, allows us to provide high-quality healthcare services to consumers, from the comfort of their homes. The key to continued success now lies with those exact stakeholders, those providers who can implement Telehealth at grass roots level, day to day. With Telehealth software platforms now increasingly available, with increasingly secure, effective cloud-based technologies, there now remains minimal barriers for all healthcare providers to drive the change further.

Do you want to future-proof your business? Embrace telehealth as a tool in your private practice, to offer your patients greater access, and convenience; a better model of healthcare.