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Virtual Healthcare: definition, benefits and challenges

Virtual Healthcare: definition, benefits and challenges

Virtual Healthcare: definition, benefits and challenges

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and adapt, virtual healthcare has become its significant part. It represents an innovative approach leveraging digital technologies to deliver remote medical services, fundamentally altering the traditional dynamics of patient care. There’s no doubt that virtual healthcare is gaining momentum as it is becoming a crucial part in embracing digital transformation and redefining the patient-provider relationship.

Virtual healthcare, also known as telehealth or telemedicine, refers to the use of digital technologies to provide remote healthcare services. This innovative approach leverages various components to enhance accessibility, efficiency, and patient outcomes. As with any transformative concept, it comes with a set of benefits and downsides that shape its impact on the healthcare landscape.

What is virtual healthcare?

Virtual healthcare refers to the healthcare provider and the patient collaborating remotely for diagnosing, monitoring, and treating illnesses with the help of mobile apps, software, and videoconferencing. It can refer to a wide range of services, but in general, there needs to be a HIPAA compliant platform through which the patient and provider can video chat, call, message, or otherwise discuss and exchange or disclose health information in a secure manner.

It’s important to recognize that virtual healthcare is not the same as telehealth or telemedicine.

Harvard Medical School defines telehealth as the delivery of health care services at a distance through the use of technology. It can include everything from conducting medical visits over the computer, to monitoring patients' vital signs remotely. Its definition is broader than that of telemedicine, which only includes the remote delivery of health care. Telehealth also includes the training and continuing education of medical professionals.

Telemedicine, on the other hand, refers to treating patients by healthcare providers without meeting in person, via calls and messages. This is mainly directed at treating chronic illnesses where the diagnosis has already been made.

Source: Adapted from Berkowitz, l., Ommen, S, & Halamka, J. (2020). TMTM Editorial: The Future of Virtual Health 

Harvard Medical School  explains that Telehealth can be delivered in one of three ways:

  1. Synchronous – when the doctor communicates with the patient in real time via computer or telephone. 
  2. Asynchronous – when data, images, or messages are recorded to share with the doctor later.
  3. Remote patient monitoring – when measurements such as weight or blood pressure are sent to the health care provider.

Another important and promising new technology enabler of Virtual healthcare is Virtual reality. VR is making strides in mental health therapy, providing immersive and effective interventions and showing the efficacy in treating anxiety disorders and phobias. A person might use it to practice new skills, face a fear in a safe environment, or become more confident in social interactions.

By removing real-world risks, VR can also make something frightening feel more manageable. For example, a person with a phobia may not be ready to confront it in reality. Interacting with a simulation in VR may help them gradually become accustomed to the object of their fear and learn it is not a threat.

Medical News Today mentions in their study that therapists originally used VR therapy to treat only phobias, but over time, they have applied it to treating a variety of other mental health conditions like PTSD, Social and emotional skills, Anxiety and depression.

With the North American VR/AR market projected to be worth more than $460 Million dollars in the year 2025, while the general public and investors are interested in learning more about what this technology can do in the healthcare space, it is clear that VR therapy is becoming an essential component of the holistic virtual healthcare landscape.

Source: https://healthmatch.io/blog/how-a-vr-set-is-fixing-chronic-lower-back-pain 

What can virtual healthcare do?

Harvard Business Review observed that, when used appropriately, virtual healthcare improves patient health and reduces costs. It also makes care more equitable and accessible to the 89% of the US adults and 78% of adults globally who own a smartphone, including those in medically underserved communities. At the same time, it offers the unique possibility to control and treat chronic diseases from the comfort of your own home.

For example, BlueSleep offers personalized diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, snoring, and other sleep disorders - based on their medical research and treatment of over 20,000 patients. They offer the newest sleep tech and all treatments via telemedicine, including oral appliance therapy and CPAP.

Dr. Jordan Stern, their Founder & Medical Director, brings his 25 years of leadership in healthcare to BlueSleep to change the existing paradigm for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and snoring. He mentioned, "Developments in telemedicine, home sleep testing, and new treatments offer our customers the best solutions to improve the quality of sleep and daytime performance."

BlueSleep's partnership with Tech-Azur has resulted in a comprehensive digital transformation that successfully addressed all aspects of the practice's digital journey from office-entric to digital-first industry thought leadership. Being a leader in the treatment of snoring, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders via telemedicine, the success of this digital transformation story was mission-critical from the very start.

Benefits of Virtual Healthcare

Harvard Medical School says that all of the following activities are possible with the help of telehealth:

  1. Recording measurements like your weight, food intake, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels either manually, or through a wearable device, and sending them to your doctor.
  2. Having a virtual visit with your doctor or a nurse over your computer or smartphone. It also provides you with access to the best doctors all over the world and takes less time, money, and energy to look for a second opinion with many experienced providers listed on the apps.
  3. Using an online portal to check your test results, request prescription refills, send your doctor a message, or schedule an appointment.
  4. Sharing information such as your test results, diagnoses, medications, and drug allergies with all of the healthcare providers you’d like to.
  5. Coordinating care between your primary care provider and any specialists you visit – including the sharing of exam notes and test results between medical offices in different locations.
  6. Getting reminders when you're due for any screenings, tests or routine vaccinations.
  7. Monitoring chronic diseases reduces the need for continuous hospitalizations. The healthcare provider can catch the symptoms and treat them remotely with remote monitoring.

Virtual Healthcare Challenges

Telehealth offers a convenient and cost-effective way to see your doctor without having to leave your home, but it does have a few downsides.

  1. It is impossible to do every type of visit remotely. You still have to go into the office for things like imaging tests and blood work, as well as for diagnoses that require a more hands-on approach.
  2. Security of personal health data transmitted electronically is a concern. Digital health records and telehealth platforms raise concerns about data security and patient privacy.
  3. Integration: quality healthcare delivery through virtual route needs both physical devices and digital connections to be able to offer a seamless experience to the patients and the doctors. Therefore, integrating central healthcare providers, remote healthcare facilities, labs, pharmacies, supporting staff and patients is a big challenge.
  4. Interoperability: there are no set standards for the health market, and this lack of standardization can lead to a loss of confidence from customers due to security breaches or inappropriate care.

While the challenges exist, the advantage of receiving clinical consultation at the most difficult times can be a lifesaver. Tech-Azur’s Health Suite leverages modern technologies to make healthcare accessible while ensuring virtual healthcare remains a difference-maker in providing medical services remotely even in both urban and rural areas.

By partnering with Tech-Azur, healthcare organizations can navigate the complexities of digital transformation, unlock new opportunities, and achieve sustainable growth in an ever-evolving healthcare ecosystem. Contact us to explore the potential it can deliver.