Telehealth has been on a major path of growth over the last few years as physicians, administrators and patients alike have learned about its wide range of benefits. In the aftermath of the pandemic, interest in telehealth is becoming part of a well-rounded healthcare strategy, and patients are widely agreeing with its implementation. This interest started early, according to statistics from Harvard Health Publishing in 2020, ¾ of Americans said that they were interested in trying virtual care, and ¼ of Americans over 50 had already attended a telehealth session in the first three months of the pandemic — a stark difference from the 4% that attended in 2019.
These statistics carry through into 2022 on the administrative side, 76% of hospitals currently utilize telehealth technologies to contact patients. On the patient side, a Well + Good survey found that 93% of people who hadn’t experienced telehealth care were willing to try it. With this rise in interest, there’s an opportunity to provide telehealth solutions that deliver effective, personalized care in a way that makes the process easier for patients and hospitals to use.
Telehealth technologies explained
Telehealth as a moniker covers a very broad range of services that aim to deliver health services from a distance. It allows patients and doctors to communicate with each other and work out simple medical problems without the need for direct contact. While an in-person examination remains the optimal way to deliver medical care — telehealth helps to bridge the gap to provide effective treatment where it would otherwise be inconvenient or impossible for either the patient or the physician.
There is a wide range of delivery methods that all fall under the label of telehealth, and are all important factors in creating a functioning system of providing healthcare. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines some of the main categories as:
● Live video conferencing: This is a conversation between a physician and patient regarding their health over video. It allows patients and doctors to talk about care needs and get basic diagnoses as well as prescriptions.
● Store-and-forward conferencing: Any exchange of medical information between parties can be considered to be store-and-forward conferencing. The CDC’s example of this kind of telehealth is pharmacists recommending medicines to providers through e-mail or patient portals.
● Remote patient monitoring (RPM): In remote patient monitoring, medical devices in a patient’s home keep track of their health data and send information to the provider or their physician. This is especially useful for patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease, high risk of stroke or diabetes.
All in all, the wide range of medical care that telehealth provides many benefits and allows for patients and doctors to better connect with each other — improving outcomes and ensuring that patients can get adequate medical attention in situations that would otherwise be inconvenient or impossible.
The benefits of modern telehealth technology
The list of positives and advantages that the widespread adoption of telehealth has uncovered is nearly boundless. Adoption of the technologies and processes needed for an effective telehealth program can help organizations quickly treat their patients for longer-term issues, freeing up their hospital beds for emergency cases or dealing with infectious diseases. Physicians too can stay safer when diagnosing those they may feel have potentially dangerous diseases. To add to the laundry list of positives, the internal factors of telehealth have been beneficial for providers as well, enabling care providers to easily communicate with each other and access patient data seamlessly.
Where telehealth also brings advantages is through the ability to educate patients on healthy decisions and proper medical care. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology Hypertension, the level of healthcare literacy for over 100 million Americans is poor. The journal goes on to state that of the benefits that telehealth solutions bring to healthcare, the relatively high frequency of visits that telehealth can provide to patients helps to increase their medical literacy and promotes better healthcare. This increase in literacy is also partially due to the fact that care providers can interact with patients in their own homes, increasing their comfort levels and making them feel more at ease.
Telehealth has also proved to be a major boon for managing chronic care conditions that patients face. Using a combination of remote patient monitoring technology and live video conferencing, patients are more able to take charge of their health conditions and feel confident that their treatment options are going smoothly.
Managing chronic diseases remotely with telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions
Telehealth solutions have proven to be effective in treating many chronic conditions by presenting patients with a greater range of options for their treatment and reminding them to take their medicine — as well as follow care orders. The CDC’s Community Preventive Services Task Force has found that telehealth can improve a wide variety of factors of a patient’s treatment. This ranges from improvements in medication adherence, to better clinical and dietary outcomes. Medication adherence is sorely needed for both providers and patients as many chronic diseases traditionally are effectively out of physicians' hands once patients have access to their medication. Only 50% of patients currently follow their prescriptions to the letter, and many stop taking it wholesale. This lack of adherence to care can cause many medical issues for patients, and costs the U.S. healthcare system over $100 billion a year.
Remote patient monitoring solutions have also given providers a new look into how patients live their lives, and get consistent up-to-date health information outside of the confines of a clinical setting. By using a remote patient monitoring system physicians have a bigger picture in terms of treatment options and can be more efficient and effective when it comes to patient care.
Perhaps more importantly, remote patient monitoring solutions also help to inform doctors if patients have stopped tracking their chronic disease or have started to abandon their care for one reason or another. This is where the other aspects of telehealth come into play. By understanding up-to-date information about their patients, care providers can send reminders or schedule meetings to prompt their patients to pick up their program of care — which has proven to be a highly effective tactic in managing chronic diseases. The aforementioned cardiology journal states in regards to telemedicine for hypertension.
Unsurprisingly, the patients who are most successful at lowering their blood pressure through home BP (blood pressure) monitoring are not those who simply self-monitor, but those who also have frequent co-interventions. Tucker et al. recently showed in a systemic review that those patients who routinely interact with physicians and pharmacists for medication titration and who receive regular education and lifestyle counseling achieve statistically-significant BP reduction at one year with the use of home BP monitoring. One can easily see how the routine use of telemedicine visits in conjunction with regular home self-monitoring could drastically improve hypertension outcomes.
This doesn’t only go for hypertension, the lessons learned in this paper apply to all chronic diseases a patient can face. By providing accessible ways for patients to interact with their healthcare from their own homes, and backing it up with reminders from healthcare professionals, abandonment rates can be drastically reduced as patients become more involved in their own care. At the end of the day, when telemedicine is accessible, it can be a boon.
Telehealth and accessibility
A major factor in telehealth’s effectiveness is its ability to be accessible for people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to a healthcare facility adequate for their location or personal situation. This includes patients who may not have the ability to make it to healthcare for reasons such as disability, work-schedules or face an inability to travel — or even people who live in rural communities far from any primary care providers. Telemedicine can also give people access to specialists they would otherwise not be able to consult with, improving their chances for a correct diagnosis or advanced care for their medical issues.
That being said, there is a downside for many telehealth solutions that must be addressed. According to data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 100 million Americans don’t subscribe to broadband connections even though it’s available in their area. This is even more compounded in rural locations where 14.5 million (or ¼ of America’s rural population) people do not have access to broadband at the level of the FCC’s acceptable threshold.
The lack of access to high-speed internet can cause roadblocks to many of the goals that telemedicine will try to achieve. This issue is confirmed by the American Hospital Association (AHA) whose stated position on telehealth includes mentions of the need for federal government programs to expand broadband access for rural communities in order to increase their access to this vital service. Until broadband providers meet that gap, telehealth solutions will be lacking for rural communities and people.
Choosing the right telehealth technologies to provide better patient service
Whether you’re a telehealth provider or a primary care facility looking to implement a more effective telemedicine service — finding the right technology is a key aspect of ensuring that your program is met with success. With a wide range of patients who have varying levels of comfortability with technology and medical care, one aspect that you should be considering is simplicity.
Ideally, you want a solution that removes any barriers that patients may be facing in reporting their health conditions or engaging with their care providers. Overly complex interfaces can cause frustration for patients and lead to the abandonment of reporting. The overall goal of your telehealth technology should be to allow patients smooth access to quality care without barriers.
Another factor that should be considered is interactivity. As mentioned before, having a high degree of interactivity creates better patient outcomes for and gets them more involved in their own healthcare. Your telehealth system should be able to send reminders for patients to continue their testing and work alongside them in their journey to better health. A truly interactive system will also let primary care providers share additional informational content with their patients to help build trust, reduce abandonment and maintain better compliance to care.
Accessibility is the final factor that you should bear in mind. Your solution should be able to work for every patient, no matter their location or condition. A telehealth system doesn’t do anything if people can’t operate it after all.
Samsung delivers a revolutionary telehealth solution
In order to assist medical facilities and patients solve telehealth, Samsung has developed a turnkey at-home monitoring solution that delivers fully provisioned and customized medical kits alongside a Galaxy tablet that acts as a hub for telehealth functions right to patients’ front doors. This solution, named Samsung Remote Patient Monitoring, helps organizations deliver a fully realized RPM kit to patients that is simple to use, highly interactive and accessible to all.
This solution brings simplicity to every aspect of the remote care chain, from the delivery of medical devices to patient self-reporting and their interactions with their doctors. Central to reporting and interactivity, the Galaxy tablet is a familiar technology for the majority of patients which can be easily operated. For patients without high-speed internet, the tablet can run on mobile networks — increasing the range of patients that networks can reach. It allows providers to share educational content, send reminders and track health data seamlessly and in a way that provides a better and more complete patient experience.
We can help you deliver a smooth and seamless telehealth experience for patients and care providers alike. If you’d like to learn more about how Samsung Remote Patient Monitoring can change how your organization looks at telehealth, contact us today.