The entire world has witnessed the year 2020, as the year of learnings, innovation, turning self-dependent in all aspects. This year has been a revolutionary year for healthcare. From patients coming with COVID-19 positive status to the patients coming for elective procedures, it became a great challenge for healthcare set-ups to cater to the needs of every patient. This is where telemedicine played a major role in combatting such issues and with its immense success, we see telemedicine as the emerging future of the healthcare.
Telemedicine is already well-known in healthcare, and the uptick in use has been readily visible throughout the year as physicians were forced to start making consultations remotely with both colleagues and patients. In 2021, it is likely to see a shift in telemedicine focus to more fully encompass mental health issues in addition to bodily ailments and illnesses. As such, mental healthcare demands will be a major driving force behind advancing virtual patient-physician consultations in the current year.
Although technology can support healthcare professionals in their work, the current crisis has shown us that during an emergency, humans still take center stage. Technology is only useful if it actually supports healthcare professionals in the work they do. This is why in 2021, we can expect technology innovation that focuses on improving the interactions between humans and machines and systems.
A prime example is computer-assisted detection and diagnosis (CAD) algorithms and their ability to execute highly specialized tasks like cancer detection faster and with greater precision than individual professionals. This is useful in imaging-heavy domains, like radiology or pathology, and helps doctors to initiate treatments faster. As people age and require more complex care, we will need tools like CAD algorithms that can help us to be more efficient with a smaller healthcare force.
Beyond the ability to talk to patients virtually, an accurate diagnosis often requires knowledge of certain parameters. This has opened the gate for telemonitoring. For patients with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, devices and apps have been developed to allow doctors to check in on things like blood pressure, blood oxygenation, or blood sugar levels from a distance. These at-home technologies make room for potentially life-saving interventions while isolation restrictions persist.
Health systems are expected to make the shift in automation from the back office of finance and human resources to the doctor’s office in 2021. Providers likely will begin to understand and then predict physicians’ behaviors and what influences their referral patterns. They are expected to invest in marketing technologies that can recommend targeted outreach strategies for use by physician liaisons in strengthening relationships with them and creating demand. They will likely work to integrate these tools with scheduling and patient outreach platforms so that they can intervene and proactively adjust patient scheduling, avoid cancellations and keep physicians happy.
These developments have signaled a shift to a hybrid care model, which will replace mostly in-person visits with a combination of both telehealth and in-person visits for services ranging from follow-ups to urgent care.
Investing in the end goal—saving lives—is always the priority for healthcare institutions and to achieve this there is a need to focus more on creating tools that can be adopted quickly because they are simple, easy to use, and entirely user-centric.
Digital tools and services that put healthcare professionals at the center of their platforms are sure to grow in 2021, and we look forward to seeing best possible outcomes for patient and society benefits.