Telemedicine has been around since at least the 1960s, but despite its history, wide-spread implementation has largely been a pipe dream.
COVID-19 has forced swift adoption requiring heavy upgrades to network technology to support virtual care initiatives and maintain compliance with federal, state and local security standards. These upgrades include dedicated internet services, wireless private networks, cyber risk monitoring, voice cypher and private IP. The result has been medical interactions that are faster and safer during a global pandemic.
But don't expect to see telemedicine wane as the pandemic subsides. Hospitals are being encouraged to act now to support future, long-term telehealth demands, largely to address accumulating "care debt" among patients who have postponed services and procedures. Indeed, across the industry, virtual care is being declared the new normal.
Forrester senior analyst Arielle Trzcinski sees a long future of virtual care as one of the emerging innovations in healthcare technology: "While the pandemic will prove the value of virtual care in a crisis, it will also demonstrate the effectiveness for ongoing chronic care management," she told Computerworld. "This moment will have a lasting effect on the adoption of virtual care and accelerate the shift from in-person care to virtual first engagement for multiple conditions and use cases."
According to Brookings, the response to make telemedicine and telehealth more permanent will rely heavily on technologies like 5G, which can help turn mobile phones into primary points of interaction between patients and providers. The superior latency and resiliency of 5G also support more reliable virtual connections.
Looking ahead, there is great potential for these technologies in healthcare. While telemedicine currently involves clinical interactions, telehealth enabled by 5G technologies and more robust infrastructure can open the door to a new era of provider training, medical education, administrative meetings, revenue cycle processes and patient support.