Is connected and telehealth going to be “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?”
This morning at MassMEDIC’s (Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council) “Connected Health–Trends, Regulations, and Payment,” Joe Ternello, President of Kinematix, and recent past Associate Director of the Partners Healthcare Center for Connected Health, opened the morning telling us that connected health and telehealth is “healthcare fit for an astronaut.” What are four great examples of this? Mr. Ternello tells us that hospital foam cushioning used to prevent pressure ulcers, personal alert systems that feed into out telemetry, pacemakers that communicate current status and use, and ability of ambulances to communicate patient information directly to the ER before they get their are all based on technology that was first developed by NASA to monitor the health of astronauts.
Naomi Fried, PhD in material science from MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital’s (BCH) first Chief Innovation Officer, explained that connected health and telehealth is at the heart of a new paradigm shift in how healthcare will be delivered. Dr. Fried believes this is a true “disruption” in medicine because it’s the first time we’re no longer requiring patients to come into the clinic or hospital to see the clinician. This is also a classic disruption because we have a new technology, a new workflow, a new payment model, and thus a whole new ecosystem. She said, “This is the future of healthcare.” Dr. Fried emphasizes that in 5-10 years from now, we’ll go back to calling it regular medicine, not telemedicine. Initially, when we had remote radiologists reading films, we called it “tele-radiology,” but now we just call it “radiology,” or our NightHawk service as it’s called at my hospital.
Boston Children’s Hospital is currently embracing telehealth in three different areas, education, consultation, and patient care. In terms of education and consultation, Dr. Fried tell us that BCH has an active tele-consultation services, where they provide general pediatric support and also specialty dermatology. A provider out in the field can take a picture of a skin lesion or rash and upload the picture with additional clinical history. Within 24 hours, BCH providers a recommendation of the clinical differential and treatment plans. Not only is this helping the patient get an answer without the long wait times of being referred to a dermatologist, but this is also like a Continuing Medical Education (CME) for the physicians. She says that BCH has found that after a few tele-dermatology consultations, the physician feels comfortable to diagnose and treat similar skin lesions or rashes alone.
Telehealth is predicted to be a 27 billion dollar industry by 2016.
In terms of patient care, BCH has four active programs, TeleWeight (Optimum Weight for Life), TeleAsthma, TeleDiabetes, and TeleConcussion. BCH has found the TeleConcussion to be particularly powerful in increasing compliance for follow-up visits. When a child has the initial concusion, it is still very important for the child to be evaluated in person. But many children never make the required 6 week follow-up visit and were prematurely going back to playing sports or back to high risk activities. The TeleConcussion allows the 6 week follow-up visit to be done from home, done after hours, and thus easier–Parent doesn’t have to take a half day off from work, and the child doesn’t have to be taken out of school.
Please become telehealth evengelists.
Dr. Fried emphasized that “Industry is at a tipping point. There is an explosion of activity and excitement about telehealth, and in fact, telehealth is predicted to be a 27 billion dollar industry by 2016.” She said that this is a fundamentally lower cost way to deliver healthcare, but none of the programs were done without physician champions. She stressed that leaders and physicians need to learn and embrace telehealth for us to get over the hurdle of adoption. She also asked the group of “Please become telehealth evangelists. Think what you can do to support the regulatory needs. If re-imbursement was supported from the top, then everyone would be much more likely to embrace it…Patient’s love the convenience and connectedness of telehealth.”
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