Emerging Technologies in Telehealth

by Caitlyn Brooksby, VP of Canary Speech

Though it may seem like it was a lifetime ago, March 2020 changed the world forever. Less than a quarter of people in the US had work-from-home options before the pandemic. Now, according to a survey done by Pew Research, more than 71% work remotely. That is more people in the workforce working remotely from home than ever before in history. Benefits of remote work were seen and felt by many – including better work/life balance, more productivity and less stress.

Some industries suffered from this move to remote work. The healthcare field, however, had access to telemedicine, which had been slow to adoption but was the answer to continuing the quality of care and remote patient monitoring during a global pandemic. According to the Journal of Healthcare Communications, nearly all patients who use telehealth methods are satisfied with their experience. There is increasing demand for telehealth both from the patient and the provider. According to nonprofit FAIR Health there was a 4,000% increase in telehealth claims across the country.

The expansive use of AI technology in medicine is ushering in a new era of care. Patients can chat with a bot to check their medical history, be remotely monitored and have follow-up instructions all through the use of AI. Here are two impressive emerging technologies that can enhance telehealth and in turn, give the patient and provider a more satisfying outcome.

  1. Digital Biomarkers: Simply put, digital biomarkers are data that consumers directly collect about health or disease management through digital health technologies to explain, influence and/or predict health-related outcomes. Digital biomarkers include voice, heartbeat, eye movement, and facial recognition. The emergence of digital biomarkers to predict and even provide early intervention is a growing field that could serve telemedicine. According to an article in the BMJ Journal, “…transforming the data into markers of disease status, termed digital biomarkers could provide clinically actionable insights with or without conventional biometric data. Digital biomarkers afford a pragmatic approach to remotely monitor patients and intervene on a continuous rather than episodic basis. Greatly expanding opportunities to intervene means that patients have greater access to personalised care, which could improve treatment outcomes.”
  2. AI: There are many practical applications of artificial intelligence (AI) for augmenting telehealth practices. Virtual assistants and conversational bots are two common uses of AI. According to the article, “Role of Artificial Intelligence within the Telehealth Domain,” here are a few use cases:
    • reminders and motivational messages e.g., for medication, nutrition, and exercise;
    • routine condition checks and health maintenance, based on personal monitoring data;
    • answering of health queries and provision of targeted health information and education;
    • providing a personalised means to address social isolation and community involvement;
    • acting as an intermediary or broker entity between multiple carers or service agencies.

Maintaining the momentum of the advancements and use of telehealth is critical in providing best-in-class care for all patients. The adoption of telemedicine and continued advancements will only raise the bar for healthcare as a whole.