Telemedicine Helps Shift Focus to Customer Experience
From IoT World Today
With wellness and health now entrenched in the public lexicon, the line between consumer wellness and traditional medicine has blurred.
Experts say that the consumerization of medicine is largely beneficial, but putting health care tools in the hands of consumers requires care — and, likely, greater oversight to promote healthful outcomes.
A medical device is intended for use to monitor, mitigate and treat diseases and conditions. A wellness device, by contrast, can monitor health-related information and promotes a general state of health, but does not treat or diagnose a condition.
Wellness Devices vs. Traditional Medical Devices
Despite the distinction, these formerly distinct categories have moved closer together. Because wellness devices are increasingly powerful health monitoring tools, they have encroached on the boundaries of traditional medicine.
An Apple Watch, for instance, can track heart rate. New models even support electrocardiography. It can also work in conjunction with a blood glucose monitor. Many other medical devices are designed for consumer use and home care, enabling nonpractitioners to view the data, while practitioners to interpret it.
The connected health and wellness devices market is expected to reach $612 billion by 2024, according to a 2016 report by Grand View Research. And the wearable medical device market alone is projected to reach $14.4 billion by 2022, according to MarketsAndMarkets.
“The lines are definitely blurring,” said Jessica Groopman, industry analyst and founding partner at Kaleido Insights. “The Apple Watch has clearly blurred that line on the consumer side. And with the push toward in-home patient care, increasingly, it will be patients themselves who will be using these formerly traditional medical devices,” Groopman said.
Some industry practitioners believe that this consumerization of health care will broaden access to and improve quality of care.
“You’re going to see an advancement of medicine in general,” said Dr. Samir Qamar, a primary care physician and inventor of MedWand, a telemedicine device enabling patients to take health diagnostics with the device in hand while conferring with a doctor via videoconference.
“Whenever you have globalization of any industry, things advance,” Qamar said. “And telemedicine is a big step in the right direction.”
There are caveats to the benefits of consumerization, though, cautioned Qamar. While it arms patients with data, it doesn’t provide the expertise to self-diagnose based on that data.
“There is a problem if people cannot interpret what they are seeing — the EKG diagnostics, for example,” Qamar said. “It can be challenging to put that data to meaningful use. But if you pair the consumerization of medical devices with medical interpretation, that’s where you have success.”
Telemedicine: Bridging the Gap
Enter telemedicine, which puts health care tools in the hands of consumers, Telehealth gives them digital access to medical practitioners to provide diagnostic analysis and next steps.
One driver is increasing health care spending. Employers expect a health care cost increase of 4.9% in 2020, compared to 4% in 2019. And as consumer expectations for health care change, many have turned to alternatives to traditional care. Telemedicine is one option, enabling patients to play a greater role in their health care.
The telemedicine trend has begun to disrupt traditional medicine, and it may continue to blur the line between consumer wellness and traditional medicine — even if the discipline also seeks to clarify it. Qamar said it will take time for the consumerization of health care to shake out.
“Any industry that can go digital will,” Qamar said. “Globalization and modernization of any industry brings advances, and you need regulation to rein in associated problems,” he said.
But he remained confident that with oversight, the benefits of telehealth will become broad-based and disruptive for health care.
While telemedicine is an emerging discipline, consumers have taken to it: Twenty-nine percent of respondents to a survey have used …