Wearable Health Tech devices not only collect biometric data about patients around the clock, they also make it practical for healthcare workers to consult with patients without having to meet with them face to face under some circumstances. The market research firm Tractica has issued a report on “Telehealth Video Consultations” that project rapid growth for this sort of remote consultation, reaching nearly 200 millions sessions worldwide by 2020.
For now, most of these are conducted within clinical settings, but the bulk of the growth will involve meeting with patients away from the hospital. This includes consulting with patients in their own homes or in facilities set up in retail outlets. (See “25 Telemedicine Kiosks Roll Out in Ohio“.) This makes it easier to reach under-served populations such as the elderly who may have difficulty traveling to office visits, or low-income patients who cannot afford the time for a trip for appointments.
Hurdles remain in the way of widespread adoption of this practice, not the least of which is access to the equipment and broadband connections required for video consultations. There are privacy and security concerns to consider, as well as compliance with regulations such as HIPAA. In many cases, insurance companies do not reimburse doctors for patient visits that are not conducted in person, and in some states, it is not even legal for physicians to consult with patients using a video call. These problems can be addressed, and as the practice becomes more common, we are likely to see significant savings in both time and money for the patient and the doctor. The result will be lower costs with better outcomes for patients.