Recently, Polycom worked with Asia Pacific Growth Management to better understand the world’s largest healthcare opportunities and challenges for the next decade. The findings from their Healthcare Technology Innovation Survey were surprisingly similar from North America to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, all the way to Asia Pacific regions. In a nutshell, the same concerning trends arise no matter where one is living: Aging and growing populations. Government policy bottlenecks. Access to healthcare.
A better question is how to react to these trends. While there is no doubt that larger, aging populations (thanks in part to rising life expectancies), government program shifts and larger, isolated communities are straining the healthcare industry, there is hope – and the sentiment remains “cautiously optimistic.” This is due in large part to advances in telemedicine and remote access to healthcare tools, consultations, queries and responses. In other words, most surveyed agreed that the future of healthcare should still be healthy and bright.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
As demographics shift around the world, aging populations grow, and the number of medical professionals does not grow along with it, healthcare professionals need to look at different delivery models to ensure that they keep as many people healthy as possible.
Part of the solution will be realized through adopting different delivery models and solutions. Rather than just focusing on the sick in hospitals reactively, more and more countries are focusing on the preventative care that will keep healthy people from getting sick in the first place. And they are looking into new ways to ensure that the newly healed don’t fall into the common rut of needing re-hospitalization due to a lack of post-treatment care.
Through technology, medical professionals can reach out proactively to patients, regardless of where they are located. By enabling citizens to interact with healthcare professionals for wellness programs at home or at work, private practices and organizations can effect a change in behavior and limit doctor visits to when an in-person clinical consultation is needed or appropriate. This shift in philosophy is a challenge, but it is already beginning to happen in specific practices, communities and forward thinking countries around the world. And there is almost limitless potential with this shift as it pertains to broadening reach and efficiency.
Video collaboration and consultation as a key method of delivering healthcare services is already a way of life in developed Northern European and other more remote locations. This ensures that patients get the appropriate attention, counsel and care they need without burdening the healthcare infrastructure. In the next year – and certainly the next decade – there is no reason that the entire globe cannot move in this direction as well.
Aging Population – a Challenge on the Global Economy
As life expectancy increases, a new challenge arises for medical care. Not only are there more people who need care; these people are also less mobile. Video, in its very basic form, allows healthcare organizations to work more efficiently while also giving access to patients for whom traveling to a clinic is no easy task.
Video vastly increases the possibilities for when and where healthcare professional see patients. It can streamline everything from wellness and prevention, clinician visits, care coordination and nursing follow up visits in hospitals, polyclinics, homes and even senior centers. But to gain the full benefit from teleconferencing and other solutions, regulatory and policy guidelines need to incentivize healthcare professionals and align with these new delivery models of care. We need to do this not just because we have technology, but because we know that front-end care and increased access provides better outcomes for patients, especially the elderly and infirm, at reduced cost.
As government and private organizations align to encourage population-based healthcare models and move away from fee for service-only models, we will see the adoption, financial and clinical benefits of being able to reach patients in their home or other convenient locations. Over the years, a fair amount of data has been collected to evaluate patient satisfaction and clinical efficacy. The reality is, patients like telemedicine. Broadly speaking, most patient surveys show that patients have a greater than 90% satisfaction rate. Secondly, the industry has collected data that has shown comparison studies that match telemedicine to real time in-person visits and the diagnosis are comparable.
Telemedicine is just a tool that we can utilize to do what we traditionally do in person. Basic security measures such as encryption for technology and confidentiality measures such as user authentication would be implemented just as they are today. Examples of things we do now that are in many ways the same include:
A radiologist reads images from their home and dictates over the phone
A doctor speaks to patients over the phone while the patient is in their home
A neurologist is on call and views a CT scan of a patient who might be having a stroke. He/or she provides verbal orders from their home to the ER doctor with the patient.
The possibilities are myriad and the productivity, the patient experience and the cost savings are very compelling. The responses from Polycom Healthcare Survey 2015 showed us that our citizens believe technology has the ability to solve existing problems in global healthcare systems. Now it’s up to the true innovators to help make it happen.
In honor of our 25th anniversary, Industry perspectives @25 will, for 25 days, take a celebratory look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions. These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of Unleashing the power of human collaboration.
Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.