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Harnessing the power of connected care and telehealth

Harnessing the power of connected care and telehealth

Katie Briggs examines the role of connected care and telehealth in the fast-changing healthcare sector

The healthcare sector is one that is constantly and rapidly changing. Chronic disorders and complex disabilities are becoming more prevalent in certain medical fields, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular visits to a local general practitioner can be challenging with the fast-paced nature of life.

However, technological advances are playing a key role across all medical fields – not just from a clinical point of view with diagnostics and treatments becoming more advanced, but also from a connected care and telehealth perspective.

Patients are becoming more aware of medical conditions and their health through the vast access they have at their fingertips via mobile and wearable devices.

According to the Global Mobile Consumer Trends report by Deloitte in 2016, more than one-third of mobile consumers worldwide said they check their phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning, and 20 per cent of these consumers check their phone more than 50 times a day. The launch of the Fitbit in 2007 caused a surge in wearable devices and the segment took off with key players in the market releasing smart watches, fitness trackers and apparel to help consumers keep track of fitness levels. It is predicted that by 2020 the number of connected wearable devices worldwide is expected to reach 830 million, up from the 325 million devices currently in use.

As a result, wearable technologies and connected devices are transforming healthcare towards preventative care models, helping both clinicians and patients to monitor and manage high risk populations, chronic conditions, as well as keep track of fitness, blood pressure and even sleep quality. Worldwide telemedicine applications are surging due to the high prevalence of chronic diseases, rising smartphone users and the consistent need for improved quality services.

With wearable technology becoming an essential part of our daily lifestyle, Arab Health 2018 – the largest gathering of healthcare and trade professionals in the MENA region – saw the introduction of the Personal Healthcare Technology Zone. This brought an essential element to the exhibition this year, as it provided industry professionals and visitors the opportunity to explore the latest in smart healthcare technology that connects patients to physicians, hospitals or clinics.

For medical practices, telemedicine adoption comes with many benefits. The world’s major regions are expected to see increases in healthcare spending ranging from 2.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent between 2015 and 2020. It is becoming more difficult for public health systems to sustain current levels of service and affordability, causing many nations to explore discrete cost-containment measures. Telemedicine falls among these measures, along with other technology-assisted service provision and delivery methods, such as robots for drug dispensing, e-prescriptions, novel payment cards, patient administrative systems, electronic medical records (EMRs) and personal health records (PHRs).

Implementing telehealth promises long-term significant savings for both clinics and patients, while also providing simple, on-demand care to patients, making healthcare more convenient and accessible. In addition to this, telehealth can help boost doctors’ revenue by turning on-call hours into billable time, attracting new patients, reducing missed or cancelled appointments and even reducing overheads for physicians who decide to switch to a flexible work-from-home model for part of the week. It also leads to more personalised and patient-centred approaches, which can ultimately lead to increased patient engagement.

While telehealth continues to grow rapidly and adoption rates are increasing, it is important to consider the limitations. It is paramount to ensure that all staff are technically trained and have access to the necessary equipment.

As the reliance on technology increases over the coming years, it is important for patients to maintain in-person consultations, regular check-ups and care-continuity.

Katie Briggs is executive director of Arab Health 2018

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