‘Deconstructing the Telehealth Industry’ positively, focusing on ‘virtual care’ of older adults

A Big Study must-read. Just published is healthcare-specialized investment banking firm Ziegler’s 28-page update on their 2016 survey of the telehealth industry. Unlike some industry observers who believe that health tech has been ‘next year’s Big Thing’ far too long, with unproven effectiveness and savings, Ziegler believes it’s about to substantially ramp up in investment spending and tech integration.

The study looks forward and goes deeply into the markets. In their view, “We believe the next generation of successful virtual care companies will be those who understand the critical marriage between chronic care management, behavioral health, and social determinants.” Their focus is on the aging (50+) population and their higher risk for developing chronic conditions and the 50 percent/5 percent spread (50 percent of the spending is generated by 5 percent of the population). Their picture is that virtual care will ‘meet patients where they are’ in their daily lives.

The study sees trend confirmation in the adoption of virtual care by health systems (the widest–telestroke and tele-ICU), low-acuity care, and 2019 expansion of Federal reimbursement in Medicare Advantage Plan B with ACOs having more flexibility in telehealth-supported services. Ziegler promotes a change in terminology–‘virtual care’ as the ‘naturally integrated tool used to streamline the complex healthcare ecosystem.” Another difference: they place virtual care in the ‘smart aging continuum’ including its effect on decision makers, payers, care options, aging in place, and residential care.

A strong reference paper our Readers will be referring to for months to come. Deconstructing the Telehealth Industry, Part II (option for printable and viewable PDFs).

A tipping point in consumer acceptance of health apps, AI, and virtual care? Accenture thinks so.

Accenture’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health indicates that the tipping point may be here, sort of. Some key findings:

  • Consumers had high rates of favorable acceptance and likeliness to use AI-enabled clinical services: home-based diagnostics (66 percent of respondents), virtual health assistants (61 percent), and virtual nurses to monitor health conditions, medications and vital signs at home (55 percent), which may be good news for the future of telehealth services.
  • The 2,301 respondents already are using mobile and tablet health apps (48 percent). 44 percent are using patient portals for to fetch their health records, primarily to get information on lab and blood-test results (67 percent), to view physician notes regarding medical visits (55 percent), and their prescription history (41 percent).
  • Wearables are being used by 33 percent and favorably viewed by over 70 percent as beneficial in understanding their health condition (75 percent), engaging with their health (73 percent), and monitoring the health of a loved one (73 percent). 

Virtual care seems to be leading the way over wearables and remote patient monitoring–and after-hours care, patient follow-up, and patient education are leading virtual care.

  • 25 percent had received virtual care services in the previous year, up from 21 percent in last year’s survey. 16 percent are taking part in remote health consultations, compared with 12 percent in 2016. 14 percent are participating in remote monitoring, up from 9 percent in 2016.
  • 47 percent state that given a choice, they would prefer a more immediate virtual medical appointment over a delayed in-person appointment.
  • For after-hours care, 73 percent said they would use virtual care for after-hours (nights and weekend) appointments.
  • 71 percent said they would use virtual care for taking a class on a specific medical condition. 65 percent would use virtual care for a follow-up appointment after an in-person visit.
  • Most respondents said they would also use virtual care for a range of additional services, including discussing specific health concerns with medical professionals (73 percent), in-home follow-up after a hospital stay (62 percent), participating in a family member’s medical appointment (59 percent), and being examined for a non-emergency condition (57 percent).

Accenture release and report.

Weekend Big Read: will telemedicine do to retail healthcare what Amazon did to retail?

Updated. Our past contributor and TelehealthWorks’ Bruce Judson (ATA 2017 coverage) has penned this weekend’s Big Read in the HuffPost. His hypothesis is that telemedicine specifically will disrupt location-based care, followed by other digitally based care–and that executives at health systems and payers are in denial. More and more states are recognizing both parity of treatment and (usually) payment. Telemedicine also appeals to three major needs: care at home or on the go, with a minimal wait; maldistribution of care, especially specialized care; and follow-up/post-acute care. His main points in the article:

  • Healthcare executives are being taken by surprise because present digital capabilities will not be future capabilities, and the shift to virtual will be a gradual process
  • Telemedicine will address doctor shortages and grow into coordinated care platforms embedding expertise (via connected diagnostics, analytics, machine learning, AI) and care teams
  • Telemedicine will eventually go up-market and directly compete with large providers in urban areas, displacing a significant amount of in-person care with virtual care
  • Telemedicine will start to incorporate continuous feedback loops to further optimize their services and move into virtual health coaching and chronic care management
  • Telemedicine platforms are also sub-specializing into stroke response, pediatrics, and neurology
  • Centers of expertise and expert platforms will become larger and fewer–centralizing into repositories of ‘the best’
  • Platforms will be successful if they are trusted through positive patient experiences. This is a consumer satisfaction model.

Mr. Judson draws an analogy of healthcare with internet services, an area where he has decades of expertise: “A general phenomenon associated with Internet services is that they break activities into their component parts, and then reconnect them in a digital chain.” Healthcare will undergo a similar deconstruction and reconstruction with a “new set of competitive dynamics.”

It’s certainly a provocative POV that at least gives a rationale for the sheer messiness and stop-n-start that this Editor has observed in Big Health since the early 2000s. A caution: the internet, communications, and retail do not endure the sheer volume of regulatory force imposed on healthcare, which tends to make the retail analogy inexact. Governments monitor and regulate health outcomes, not search results or video downloads (except when it comes to net neutrality). It’s hard to find an industry so regulated other than financial/banking and utilities. FierceHealthcare also found the premise intriguing, noting the VA’s ‘Anywhere’ programs [TTA 9 Aug] and citing two studies indicating 96 percent of large employers plan to make telemedicine, also with behavioral health services, available, and that 20 percent of employers are seeing over 8 percent employee utilization. (Under 10 percent utilization gave RAND the vapors earlier this year with both this Editor and Mr. Judson stinging RAND’s findings with separate analyses.)

Humanoid robots and virtual humans in the ‘uncanny valley’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/uncanny_2.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]One of the challenges that designers of both robots and ‘virtual humans’ in online simulation settings is to make them, in the dictum of pioneering industrial designer Raymond Loewy, MAYA–‘most advanced yet acceptable’. The MAYA of robotics appearance was stated about 40 years ago by Professor Masahiro Mori at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; the more human and less machine-like the appearance, the more positive a real human’s emotional response will be. But as simulated humans have progressed in commercial animation and in online settings to ‘almost human’, there is a ‘creepiness factor’ that emerges (more…)

‘eVisits’ save $5 billion globally this year–but are they more effective care?

Deloitte and Towers Watson obviously disagree on the savings from eVisits (Deloitte) and telemedicine (Towers Watson). Deloitte’s study of eVisits projects a global savings of $5 billion in 2014. Towers Watson is estimating $6 billion in 2015 from US employers alone if there is full employee utilization of telemedicine. Deloitte is also more transparent in its estimating, for example on the $50-60 billion total addressable market for eVisits in ‘developed countries’. This Editor doesn’t see a major difference in definitions between the two; Deloitte defines eVisits as video consults plus the forms, questionnaires and photos that have become part of telehealth, but not the vital signs monitoring part.. Perhaps our readers, looking at both more closely, can discern, or confirm that Towers Watson has too rosy a picture? Deloitte‘s ’21st Century Housecall’ study (short paper) is also worth a read for presenting facts/figures on the global addressable market and for a surprising conclusion–that the ‘greater good (in developing countries) may come from saving tens of millions of lives’. Hat tip to reader Mike Clark. Clinical Innovation + Technology summary.

‘Virtual care is much more effective than brick-and-mortar care.” (Editor’s emphasis) A bold statement that Microsoft and the writer from Intel fail to back up with facts. The focus of this ‘In Health’ article is preventing readmissions. There are the usual Panglossian pointers  (more…)