Readers Write: A Glimpse of Telehealth’s Future: Five Takeaways from ATA 2023
A Glimpse of Telehealth’s Future: Five Takeaways from ATA 2023
By Lyle Berkowitz, MD
Lyle Berkowitz, MD, is CEO of KeyCare of Chicago, IL.
My recent visit to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA)’s annual meeting offered an opportunity to briefly reflect on how far the industry has come, as well as provided a few glimpses of what the future of telehealth might hold.
When ATA was founded three decades ago, broadband internet was a rare commodity and telehealth visits were primarily via phone calls. Fast forward to today and it’s obvious that telehealth is leading healthcare transformation in multiple areas, from urgent care to women’s health needs to lifestyle medications – while pushing how we can use virtual care tools to simultaneously improve the patient experience, quality, and cost.
Here are five of my key takeaways from the ATA 2023 Annual Conference and Expo:
- The rise of femtech and women’s health. Numerous startups are developing solutions that leverage telehealth to address women’s health issues. For example, Nest provides virtual same-day lactation support and has partnered with several hospitals to improve infant health outcomes. Separately, SimpliFed partners with caregivers before an infant is born to develop feeding plans and delivers support to patients through a virtual breastfeeding provider network.
- Increased focus on hybrid care. In this context, hybrid models refer to those that offer patients access to telehealth visits which can coordinate with in-person care, based on a patient’s individual care needs. Corporate giants like Amazon, CVS, and Walmart are lurking around in this space, but health systems have the greatest potential to own it. That’s because it is far more straightforward, simple, and cost-effective to add a virtual care partner to a robust office-based health system than to bolt on office-based care to a virtual care company.
- A new market for hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids are now available to the public, thanks to a ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration last year. As a result, companies like Audicus have jumped into this market to serve customers via telehealth. In this easy and convenient process, a hearing test is performed online, a hearing aid is shipped out, and any adjustments are done via a video visit.
- The rise of remote patient monitoring. Like telehealth, remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology has been around for decades, and while various startups have different approaches for obtaining data, they all have the same vision in mind. For example, some companies use a wearable patch for continuous monitoring, others use Bluetooth to connect to devices a patient may have, and “device-less” companies use a chatbot that allows a patient to self-enter data. Some may even combine these tools or add others. Then all of this data is sent to a dashboard for analysis and display so that a virtual team can appropriately monitor and engage with patients, and then identify outliers which need to be escalated to office-based providers. However, the real trick is knowing where to apply RPM and align incentives. The post-acute care area has been popular for years; the chronic care space has experienced slow growth but offers strong potential; and the new hot area is clearly hospital at home.
- Niche products. It has become easier for companies to focus on specific use cases for virtual care monitoring and management. For example, I came across the super niche startup Staling Medical, which has created an at-home urine diagnostics tool that uses a patient’s smartphone microphone to listen to their urine stream, with a goal of improving outcomes for recurrent urinary tract infections, urinary obstructions, and chronic kidney disease.
It’s a fun time to be in telehealth. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s up next at ATA 2024!
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