By Mick Connors, M.D., Founder and CEO
2018 was an important and exciting year for telehealth, paving the way for even greater adoption of the care delivery model in 2019 and beyond. Among the more noteworthy “headlines” of the year past:
1. Research showed that consumers are increasingly open to (and even looking for) virtual care services. According to one survey, 77 percent of healthcare consumers say they’d be more likely to choose a doctor who offers telehealth than to choose one who isn’t using the technology. Reasons patients want virtual visits are all convenience-focused: 26 percent like the option of skipping drives to and from the doctor’s office; 25 percent want to access healthcare from the comfort of their home; 20 percent want to access their physicians quickly; and 16 percent like the short wait times.
2. Legislation opened the door for reimbursement for telehealth services in most states. Throughout 2018, federal and state lawmakers and regulators continued the push to modernize legal frameworks to support digital health adoption. Among other things, these efforts brought changes to coverage of telehealth, including:
- The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 expanded Medicare coverage for certain telehealth services to beneficiaries who are being treated by practitioners participating in ACOs.
- In June 2018, CMS encouraged states to use telehealth and telepsychiatry services to coordinate care for Medicaid recipients.
3. A growing number of healthcare leaders reported telehealth has become a priority – an essential component of the way healthcare is delivered. According to a 2018 survey by Sage Growth Partners, 86 percent of healthcare executives say telemedicine is a priority. Another survey by Reaction Data found that 29 percent see telemedicine as having the biggest impact on healthcare (followed by AI technology at 20 percent and mobile data at 11 percent).
4. Emerging technologies – ranging from improved digital stethoscope technology to an assortment of wearable medical devices – positioned telehealth to become more powerful and connected than ever before. A few of my favorites:
- In January, device-maker Tytocare announced closing on a significant new round of funding to support the evolution and expansion of its handheld exam kit and app. Used together, the mhealth solutions enable parents to perform guided medical exams from the comfort of home.
- In February, the Empatica’s Embrace smart band for epilepsy was launched. In addition to monitoring seizures, the FDA-approved digital device tracks activity, sleep, and other areas that can impact episodes that are difficult for a parent to convey an accurate picture of to their pediatrician.
- In September, Apple introduced its Apple Watch Series 4 featuring an electrocardiogram function that measures the heart (EKG) and an irregular rhythm notification that alerts wearers who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation. Both features received clearance from the FDA.
- Also in 2018: The historically mainstream consumer company Withings launched an FDA-approved blood pressure cuff that allows physicians to review snapshots of a patient’s blood pressure remotely.
What will 2019 hold for telehealth? That remains to be seen, but if last year was any indication, the future is bright.
Want to learn more about telemedicine and how Anytime Pediatrics can connect you and your patients in a new way? Connect with us.