The Future of Telemedicine
In my upcoming speech at the Wolves Summit in Warsaw, I have been asked to present some of the key – current and future – technology trends on healthcare.
Core to my keynote, will be the vectors impacting telemedicine, as I think this sub-discipline is pivotal in understanding the role of technology in the healthcare in general. First and foremost, because telemedicine combines both a consumer pull, and a provider push: it provides a convenient, economic, and at-an-arm’s-length patient alternative, which, at the same time, saves costs and improves care experience for the care provider. Moreover telemedicine also effectively taps on the trend of smartification of devices, while, effectively transforming beyond its diagnostic focus, by exploiting remote care possibilities. And finally, telemedicine is a fertile ground for up-and-coming technologies, like Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, speech assistants and de-materialized wearables.
We believe that there are three vectors impacting Telemedicine: 1) The upcoming Super-connected home; 2) The Servitization of Smart Devices and the further 3) Decentralization of Medical Services. The first two are common trends to any consumer IOT vertical, although in healthcare they bear specific consequences on the evolution of care. The third vector is specific to the health care.
1. Super-connected home
The smartification of devices is going to be positively impacted by the introduction of 5G as well as the mainstreamization of mesh routers at home, which will make connectivity more efficient and truly shared among devices. In addition to that, there is growing consumer demand for hidden devices, which will be embedded more and more into existing elements of our own home décor. So, instead of purchasing newer and more appliances delivering specific routing, connectivity and functions, those services will be performed by existing appliances, design elements and pieces of home décor. Likewise wearables will be more and more embedded into clothing.
The first wave of IOT in the healthcare vertical was about collecting data. The next wave is about providing smart services based on the collected data. The emergence of Cloud-to-cloud Open APIs is enabling new smart services relying on the data to provide insights and clear call to action. For example, conditions like depressions, cognitive abilities and even dementia in elder patients can be fueled by social isolation. The latter can be remotely monitored by profiling sleep patterns, eating habits and frequency, and toilette routine. Subscription Services like Sensara in the Netherlands use profiling developed by the Open University of Amsterdam (VU), to collect data and offering intelligent alarms to family members, by not relying exclusively on immediate medical emergencies.
3. Decentralization of Medical Services
Telemedicine is a breakthrough for care operators, because it allows for cost savings, accounts for reduced waiting times as well as improved perception of the service overall. Naturally this environment will fuel a shift from on-site to remote services as much as possible. This does not only include more specialist diagnostics, but also treatment when possible. So among other services, we will soon enough observe the emergence of remote second opinions as well as psychological treatments. Both of this discipline will have the ability to slash costs and improve patients’ convenience.
In the longer term, more and more technologies will emerge as key enabler of health-tech. First and foremost augmented reality and virtual reality, which are being tested in treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, and could be used in cases of depression or general psychological treatments.
Quite naturally we also expect voice to play a role, especially in streamlining the procedures and the management of prescription and instructions. At the same time with the dematerialization of wearables, like temporary connected tattoos, or better through implantable, ingestible and invisible sensors, will likely play a pivotal role in the collection of data, by enabling even more sophisticated diagnostics.