Galina Kustova, Healthcare Solution Adviser, <a href=''>Anadea</a>

Galina Kustova, Healthcare Solution Adviser, Anadea

Telehealth was already a growing market, before the events of 2020 pushed that growth further. Another market that was also growing is wearables, with 49% of  the United States population owning a wearable device, according to PwC.

More detailed PwC research has found that 45% of that growing market own a wearable fitness brand, such as a Fitbit. Smartphones are also increasingly used to track health and fitness data, including exercises done on a regular basis, calories consumed, and other information.

Consumers buy and use fitness wearables for a number of reasons, such as losing weight, monitoring exercise, employers encourage them, to track walking/running routes and improve them, and to reduce insurance premiums. Fitness wearables are here to stay, and only becoming more popular over time, with the wearables market size expected to exceed $27 billion in 2022.

Alongside the use of wearables, is this movement towards embracing telehealth solutions for a number of reasons. In this article, we look at why both are popular, and what this means for improving patient care outcomes.

Why is Telehealth the way forward?

Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, was already growing fast before the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Now a new Frost & Sullivan report estimates that telehealth uptake will increase 64.3% in 2020 alone. Within 5 years, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to be 38.2% in 2025.

When it comes to primary care appointments, remote or virtual is seen as the safest option now compared to in-person appointments. Not only is this safer for patients, it’s safer for medical professionals, other patients, and those in the area where patients are visiting to see a doctor or nurse.

Olga Veretskaya, Marketing Researcher, AnadeaAccording to research published in the Journal of the American Informatics Association, non-urgent virtual-care visits increased 4,345% from March 2 until April 14, 2020.

Although this explosion of visits is directly linked to Covid-19, now that millions of patients can see how it’s convenient, many may prefer to stick with this approach for routine non-urgent appointments from now on.

Patients are quick to adopt telehealth. Many now prefer it, whereas before there was still a limited awareness in the wider market. One survey found that 75% want telehealth solutions for remote screening for Covid-19, and two-thirds said this pandemic is encouraging them to use virtual health services from now on.

Telehealth is, providing symptoms don’t need to be examined physically, more convenient for patients and doctors. It saves both time and money. Plus, telehealth reduces the amount of time doctors spend phoning and emailing patients, which isn’t billable. Whereas, whether directly or through insurance, telehealth appointments are usually billable and can earn primary care practices extra revenue without needing to have more patients present.

Consequently, this is a great way for medical practices to increase market share, serve more patients, increase revenue, and waste less time on services for patients that isn’t billable.

Why combine Telehealth with Wearables?

Stanford School of Medicine wanted to test how reliable and efficient an Apple Watch could capture atrial fibrillation (AFib) data. This was seen as an effective way to test one of the most popular devices for collecting health and fitness data from consumers.

The study included 400,000 enrolled participants, comparing Apple Watch data with a simultaneous ECG patch. The results were impressive, with 71% recording a positive predictive value (indicating a positive tachogram reading). Of that group, 84% tested positive for atrial fibrillation (AFib), and 57% of those sought medical attention.

In another study, this time detecting whether a patient is likely to fall, wearable devices recorded 73.7% accuracy, with 81.1% precision.

When people fall, especially those with underlying or life-long conditions, or those who are frail and elderly, accurate fall detection reduces trips to hospital and long-term damage. Thanks to built-in accelerometers, wearables can detect and prevent falls. A University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign study demonstrated how useful they could be when it comes to preventing and detecting falls.

However, none of that data wearables collect is of much use without a direct connection to healthcare providers.

Benefits of combining Telehealth with Wearables

Healthcare teams need a clear and accurate, and at times, real-time view of a patients physical conditions, activity levels, and dietary intake.

Wearables provide all of those valuable insights, thereby ensuring changes to medication and treatments can happen when they’re actually needed. Otherwise, patients could be waiting weeks or months for a physical appointment, as doctors can’t make the same sort of observations as they normally would when seeing a patient face-to-face.

Ultimately, that is the advantage of connecting wearable data inputs with telehealth platforms. Doctors can get data they’d normally get face-to-face. Ensuring that patients get the same quality of healthcare, without physically needing to visit a medical facility, such as a primary care practice, which could potentially expose them to the risk of Coronavirus, or other health problems.

How telehealth providers go about connecting wearables with their platforms depends on a range of factors:

How many wearable inputs are needed, and what technology is involved?

Whether these inputs also need to integrate with an EHR or other platforms and systems?

Whether these platforms and systems are built on legacy technology, or if they’re cloud-based, hybrid, and/or use APIs to connect with other systems?

What features and services are required to process the wearable data that flows into the system?

What medical workflow needs to be followed, to ensure this is designed effectively for patients and doctors?

There are dozens of other considerations, of course, but these are a useful starting point. When wearables are connected with telehealth platforms, patients benefit from improved outcomes, and medical organisations get more useful data from patients, can increase revenues (from offering enhanced remote consultations), while also reducing costs and improving efficiencies.

At Anadea, we have extensive experience working with healthcare companies. Designing software that aligns operational goals with patient care journeys. Data security is essential to this too. We ensure data is secure, adhering to HIPAA and other regulatory standards, to keep healthcare and patient details safe.

Some of our healthcare projects have involved developing an electronic health record system (eHealth platform) that covers the needs of Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) and Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs), such as what we developed for OnTrac Resident Manager. Whereas others involve complicated electronic health management, involving numerous databases and overlapping systems. Whatever a healthcare company needs, we can deliver.