Staying on top of the latest technology trends in telehealth is crucially important for clinical providers seeking competitive advantage as well as patients searching for the convenience that telemedicine promises. March 2019 had some new trends as well as increasing advances in the field of telemedicine. They included:
- The VA announced they’re seeking increased funding to expand their telehealth network. With the nation’s largest provider of healthcare to America’s veterans already hitting more than one million telehealth visits the prior year, it’s clear the tools are working well for this clinical provider.
- Drones appear to be coming to the nation’s telehealth efforts. North Carolina’s WakeMed Health & Hospital has a new partnership with UPS for logistics and Matternet for drone technology to launch the first U.S. commercial flights to carry medical supplies and clinical samples to and from remote regions. The technology will be powered via a modern telehealth network.
- A new study targeting proactive telehealth treatment for college students experiencing mental health issues was announced by North Carolina’s WakeMed Health & Hospital system last month. The research aims to use digital tools to proactively diagnose and treat students at risk of developing depression, an eating disorder, or general anxiety. The sample pool is expected to top 8,000 and will measure the use of telehealth against more traditional counseling and therapeutic models.
These were only three of a plethora of telehealth initiatives in March that also included efforts to seek better reimbursement, statewide telehealth expansion to treat opioid addiction, and even, FDA-approval for a new remote monitoring toilet seat. There’s a lot going on in telehealth, here’s what happened in March.
VA Seeks to Expand Telehealth Services by $1 Billion
We already know the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a long history of success with telehealth. Last month the VA Secretary announced an effort to receive an additional $1 billion from the U.S. government to fund more telehealth initiatives and widen their existing scope of services.
The organization hit a milestone in 2018, with more than one million virtual visits across its large federal system. That signifies service to just 13% of the population they serve. The organization has extensive metrics that show the efficacy of its telemedicine models for everything from mental health to wound care. The VA Secretary testified on Capitol Hill last month that, “Telehealth is a critical tool to ensure Veterans, especially rural Veterans, can access healthcare when and where they need it.”
The budget request of $1 billion would be applied to help 18.2 million American veterans assess treatment when and where they need it the most. This is particularly important for the veteran living in rural areas; mHealth Intelligence reports that 45% of our nation’s veterans live in these areas.
One of the benefits of being a federally funded and sanctioned program is that the VA recently launched an “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Healthcare Initiative,” designed to allow doctors and mid-levels to practice medicine across state lines. This effort eliminated one of the toughest barriers to providing care through telehealth; the issue of state licensure. With the additional funding and new partnerships with technology vendors like Verizon and T-Mobile, it is expected that the VA will continue to lead the nation in widespread telehealth applications.
North Carolina’s WakeMed Combines Telehealth with Drone Technology
If you think carrying blood samples to and from the lab with a flying robot sounds like science fiction; it’s not. In March, North Carolina’s WakeMed Health & Hospital announced a partnership with drone company Matternet and shipping behemoth UPS to ship supplies via drone technology.
The service operates from a telehealth platform for autonomous drones. The system has been in beta test since 2016, according to an mHealth Intelligence article. The way the technology will work is that a clinician will load blood samples or other supplies into the drone. The drone will fly along a pre-defined flight plan to deliver the supplies, piloted by a remote staffer.
This is crucial technology for rural communities. Image a snowstorm preventing delivery of insulin to remote communities. But drones are made to go where humans cannot, as are virtual health tools. These flights, which have already been tested extensively in Europe, hold the serious potential to extend care to rural communities.
New National mHealth Study Targets Mental Health in College Students
In March the Washington University School of Medicine announced a new study with 8,000 students in 20 colleges around the nation to test a new mHealth platform for treating anxiety, clinical depression, and eating disorders. The project is a five-year $3.8 million study, according to mHealth Intelligence. It will target college students are at risk for developing depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder by seeking input on a survey targeting 150,000 enrolled students around the nation. The study will then pool an 8,000 member at-risk cohort. One-half will be treated in a traditional clinical setting while the other will be given access to mHealth tools.
Mental health issues are particularly stigmatizing for all patients, so it is surmised that the use of digital virtual tools will allow these students better and more convenient access to care. These digital tools are also likely to extend the mental and behavioral health safety net by extending care at a time when provider shortages are expected.
The study is making use of a phone app that researchers believe will extend preventative care services to college-aged students when they are most vulnerable, suggesting, “Through a digital therapeutic platform, colleges and universities can push tailored surveys out to students that allow providers to more quickly identify students at risk and funnel them into the appropriate care path.”
OrthoLive Announces BoneSmart Collaboration
The biggest news in March at OrthoLive was the announcement of our collaboration with BoneSmart, the nation’s largest joint replacement community in the United States. Each year more than 2.5 million users come to the BoneSmart website looking for more information on joint replacement. The OrthoLive partnership means that these visitors will have access to a virtual telemedicine visit where a trained clinician can provide treatment for a variety of painful orthopedic injuries.
Click here to read the full press release.
To find out more about how your team can put the OrthoLive app to work in your clinic, contact us.
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