Tech in Focus: The Evolving Landscape of Telemedicine

Let’s face it. Picking up a phone or doing a video chat is easier and faster than going and seeing your doctor. Plus, say what we will about millennials preferring digital to in-person interactions, but in a field that’s in high demand and often plagued with inefficiencies, there may be something to this strategy when it comes to a large portion of outpatient healthcare. Besides, most of the time we spend at our doctors’ visits are spent talking, asking and answering questions, and scheduling labs and testing, all of which can be done from near or far.

It only makes sense that the industry of telemedicine – replacing in-person office visits with remote visits through phone and video chat – has been booming in recent years. While there are certainly some advantages of seeing your doctor in the office, a lot can be done much more efficiently through telemedicine. To put this in perspective, a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 32 states have passed laws requiring insurance payors to reimburse for telemedicine visits. Primary care telemedicine visits, now the most common type of visit, has been growing at rates of over 50% annually in recent years. The number of visits leapt 261% between 2015 and 2017, according to this study. Interestingly, the average age of people using telemedicine visits was 38 and they were overwhelmingly from urban areas.

As these growth trends continue for telemedicine, many companies that reside in the Health Tech industry are working to see how far we can take telemedicine. A couple companies in particular is looking to address the small minority of visits that encompass sub-specialty care, which often requires longer wait times for people looking to see a doctor.

Omron Complete, Blog size
Image Source: Omron Healthcare, Inc.

That brings us to one product that recently gained FDA clearance as a device that measures blood pressure and interprets an ECG (electrocardiogram), all from the comfort of your own home… or wherever you take the small, just-over-one-pound device. Omron, a leader in consumer and professional blood pressure devices, and AliveCor, a well-established company that led the way for consumer-based ECG’s, have teamed up on the Omron Complete (Complete Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor + EKG) which will start shipping May 1st, 2019 and cost $199.99.

This is a first-of-its-kind consumer friendly device that provides more than just one isolated diagnostic reading. Furthermore, it fits that they’ve targeted the arena of cardiovascular diagnostics, which has a huge market given that it’s the number one cause of death in the US. Being able to measure a blood pressure, heart rate, and get an ECG can allow tele-docs to have much more information to inform what might be necessary in treating patients from afar.

Interestingly, AliveCor has also recently presented some of their own research on a newly FDA cleared device called KardiaAI, which will allow their ECG detection technology to diagnose more than just atrial fibrillation. They are expanding their diagnostics to include other more detailed measures doctors get from a standard in-office ECG that can help diagnose causes of passing out, dizziness, palpitations, and other cardiac complaints.

Compared to previously existing products that had a lot of hype such as the AliveCor KardiaBand and the Apple Watch Series 4, which both could just record an ECG alone, the Omron Complete is starting to look more like the beginnings of a sophisticated at-home doctor’s visit.

 

Doctor With A Stethoscope On The Computer Laptop Screen. Telemed
Doctor with a stethoscope on the computer laptop screen. Telemedicine or telehealth concept.

So what comes next? Well, with products such as these that are allowing more advanced care from the comfort of your own couch, we expect a lot more innovation in defining the upstream and downstream implementation of healthcare systems to adapt to this changing landscape.
To learn more about how Heartbeat is leading this charge in making access to Cardiology care easier and more efficient than ever, visit our website or ask us here. If you or someone you know is interested in being one of Heartbeat’s Telecardiologists, apply here!

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