Educate. Inspire. Provoke. The 2019 American Telehealth Association industry conference, held in New Orleans, LA this week, accomplished all of these. Telehealth is evolving as one component of “Digital Health” and has proven its value as a health care accelerator. Here are some of my top of mind observations from the meeting:
- A Huge Gap Exists Between Telehealth Capability and Use: Consumers are actually leading telehealth adoption. Experts at the conference cited 22% of providers are using telehealth but 69% want to. Hospital use disparity is similar. More opportunity exists than is realized.
- Strategic Partnerships are Critical to Advance Telehealth: Telehealth delivery is too complex for organizations to work in isolation and do everything themselves. Interesting partnerships are emerging to expand capability, share risk, access developed distribution channels and engage patients.
- Access to Care Remains a Key Motivator: Behavioral Health. Opioid Crisis. Access to Specialty Care are top needs.
- Retail Entering the Telehealth Space is Forcing Change Fast: Think Best Buy Healthcare in stores and offering “Tech Pharmacy”- like device and service bundles. Think Alexa answering medical questions, scheduling referrals and sending you medication reminders. Think Geek Squad keeping your wearables and home blue tooth medical devices functioning. It’s here people.
- Meet the Patient Where They Are – Millennials First!: HopeLab shared, “46% of young people would rather have a broken bone than a broken phone.” 90% of young people go online for healthcare. 45% of millennials have no primary health provider. Smartphones and online are the preferred access points. Patient engagement and satisfaction are vital signs of telehealth success.
- Platform and Product Integration is Crucial: Hospitals are moving to enterprise telehealth solutions. Payers are looking for company diagnostic tech partners. Providers will not tolerate multiple in/out of platforms. Patient devices vary. Who makes it all work together with the fastest, least amount of clicks wins.
- The Hospital is Coming Home: Remote home monitoring, wearables, blue tooth devices, medical apps, sensor technology and little healthcare affordability relief. We are moving away from a hospital dominant healthcare system. Patients are finding healthcare environments comfortable and affordable for them.
- AI and Data are Real. Now. : Analytic rigor. Disciplined innovation cycles. Population health management. Hospitals showed how they are using AI in an intra-facility manner in the surgical post op area to alert staff more quickly via set triggers to avoid more complex complications using AI and feeds from medical monitors in-house. In addition, one company outlined their use for AI in the healthcare operation space vs. clinical as a priority to speed up mundane processes. Image reading by AI faster than we can blink, let alone think. It’s here, evolving fast and touching telehealth.
- We Remain Collectively Concerned about Security: Read the news. Daily breaches. Our health privacy is top of mind for valid reasons. Keep vigilant.
- The Government is Our Slowest Path to Change-But You Can Help: Senator Bill Cassidy of LA, who is also a physician, gave the audience a reality check about Congress members’ experience of healthcare. Not the same as ours – and he cautioned that any change is a long process that will require education. Fastest way to advance telehealth – invite them to come and see what we do so they have the direct experience of it. While they are there, provide them with the answers they can use when they are questioned about telehealth – in writing.
As I left the meeting, having attended for several years, it is satisfying to see telehealth not only mature but start skyrocketing to benefit many. We are all still learning quickly and together. I was encouraged to see new faces… but, was left questioning whether the meeting was too heavy on “industry” and too light on patients and providers tracks. My biggest question, as echoed by others there: “Now that we’ve proven it, how will we work together to get the value out of telehealth?”Tanya Mack, President