While telehealth technology and its use are not new, trends show some increased interest in the use of telehealth services by both healthcare professionals (HCP) and patients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the way that healthcare is delivered are being considered to reduce staff exposure, preserve personal protective equipment, and minimize the impact of patient surges on facilities. Healthcare systems have had to adjust the way they triage, evaluate, and care for patients using methods that do not rely on in-person services. Telehealth services help provide necessary care to patients while minimizing the transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to healthcare personnel and patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recent policy changes during the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced barriers to telehealth access and have promoted the use of telemedicine as a way to deliver acute, chronic, primary and specialty care. Many professional medical societies endorse telehealth services and provide guidance for medical practice in this evolving landscape.
Several telehealth modalities enable HCP and patients to connect using technology to deliver health care:
- Synchronous: This includes real-time telephone or live audio/video interaction typically with a patient using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. In some cases, peripheral medical equipment (e.g., digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, ultrasounds) can be used by another HCP (e.g., nurse, medical assistant) physically with the patient, while the consulting medical provider conducts a remote evaluation.
- Asynchronous: This includes “store and forward” technology where messages, images, or data are collected at one point in time and interpreted or responded to later. Patient portals can facilitate this type of communication between provider and patient through secure messaging.
- Remote patient monitoring: This allows direct transmission of a patient’s clinical measurements from a distance (may or may not be in real time) to their healthcare provider.
Critical in-person tasks such as medical proctoring to provide case support during surgical procedures in the operating room are now going remote. New medical device developments incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) help physicians proctor cases remotely. Advances such as two-way audio/video systems that are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Account (HIPAA) are now enabling proctors to draw on fluoroscopy images, share their screens, and warn doctors what to look for during a procedure such as implanting a device in the body.
AI is predicted to become more impactful as video becomes standard practice and larger data sets empower better insights to inform therapies and procedures. Soon image-object recognition and machine learning will be used to help analyze operating room activities for better, more reliable outcomes.
As further advances are made in incorporating telemedicine technology into medical devices and delivery systems, MEDIcept will be ready to help ensure regulatory compliance and guide them to market.
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MEDIcept is an international consulting firm offering a full portfolio of services to the medical device and IVD industry. For over 25 years, our unique consulting practice and multidisciplinary team of former FDA, Notified Body, and industry experts have assisted hundreds of companies of all sizes with innovative, compliant, trusted, and cost-effective Regulatory, Quality, Clinical, and Engineering solutions.
For additional information, please contact Susan Reilly at SReilly@MEDIcept.com.