During the Mobile World Congress 2021, Barcelona Health Hub was present with a stand at 4YFN, the startup business platform, from June 28th until July 1st. In addition, Barcelona Health Hub was proud to organize panels on various digital health-related topics on the stage of BStartup.
On Monday, June 28th, BHH organized the Telehealth Panel. Panelists answered, “How do we ensure that patients and healthcare professionals continue to use telehealth? What can be done to maintain and expand the use of telehealth in place of physically returning to the clinic or primary care setting?”
Moderator Dr. Oscar García-Esquirol, Co-Founder & Chief Medical Officer of Mediktor and Chief Medical Officer of Barcelona Health Hub, was joined by Dr. Cesar Morcillo, Medical Director of the Sanitas Digital Hospital, Dra. Madeleine Smit, CEO of Turo Park Medical Center, Omar Najid, CEO of Docline, and Dr. Frederic Llordachs, Co-Founder of Doctoralia.
The discussion was in Spanish; however, we offer some of the highlights in English below.
There are three elements to the telemedicine equation:
- First, the patient is always at the center of the equation of the patient as a user of telemedicine.
- Providers who are providing care.
- Healthcare systems and payers.
COVID expedited the TeleHealth Transition
Many clinics had to transition overnight to a virtual environment while maintaining communication with the team and generating revenues to cover overhead. It forced a digital transformation that would normally have taken months, if not years. Despite this, 85% of practitioners chose to communicate via telephone despite having telehealth solutions for years.
In hospitals, caregivers adopted video conferencing for in-patient care where in-room consultations were not essential, decreasing the risk of exposure and contagion of personnel. In addition, there was a greater adoption of telemonitoring, facilitating the home monitoring of COVID patients reducing hospital stays and readmissions.
Telehealth Enhances the Patient Experience
Telehealth offers an opportunity for the patient to consult with a caregiver without having to wait long periods of time normally experienced in the in-person enverionement. This offers a greater patient experience, earlier consultation, and ultimately, better care outcomes for non- acute consultations.
Obviously, it contributes to overall precautionary practices lowering the chance of infection from visiting the clinic environment with other patients. However, the greatest hesitation for patients was the uncertainty as to whether their providers would cover these visits.
The patient is already digital, so they expect healthcare to catch up. They communicate via smartphones, video conferencing on Zoom, and shopping at Amazon, so digital healthcare is an obvious progression.
Communication and Support is Needed to Facilitate a Permanent Shift to Telemedicine
Patients and doctors need to communicate to set patient expectations in the new digital environment. While patients may not physically see their providers as often, the quality of care remains, as long as patients understand the process and what the expectations are in their participation. In addition, for older patients, caregivers need to address digital challenges they may experience and tailor their responses according to patient digital skill sets.
More training is needed for the patients so that they know the benefits that telemedicine brings. Then encourage them to use it and while they’re using it show them and remind them of those advantages. Beyond video conferencing, electronic prescriptions expedite the process allowing the patients to receive and renew prescriptions from the convenience of their homes. Once patients begin to experience these conveniences, they will embrace telemedicine.
Ultimately, this recalls the days of home visits. Where patients and doctors got to know one another. There was an opportunity to ask questions and for the caregivers to educate the patient to deliver the best care outcomes.
Health IT needs to be part of Medical Training.
With digital consultations, monitoring, and Medical IoT, caregivers will be inundated with data. Therefore, they will need tools (AI, Machine Learning, etc.) to garner insights from all this data to determine the best care options based on the data provided.
Many doctors say, “I just can’t the same sense as a physical examination by video consultation.”
With proper training, caregivers will realize that much of that examination can be done remotely. This, coupled with advancing technologies, has mechanisms to solve that exploration part. For example, sensors can measure physical vital signs, and the use of connected devices provides real-time monitoring offering better insights into patients’ holistic health.
Telehealth is here to stay, and caregivers need to embrace the advantages offered by tlemedicine.