Telemedicine And Health Insurance: Virtual Care Trends In European Countries – For decades, health care has been delivered primarily in centralized facilities such as hospitals, which have allowed for great advances in disease diagnosis and treatment, but only provide snapshots of our health that are not always accessible to patients in remote or underserved communities. Today, thanks to digital health technologies, we are seeing the rapid emergence of a new paradigm: with it, we can bring care much closer to the patient, whether virtual or physical, at home or in the community. This is why we believe distributed care is the future of healthcare. The trend toward out-of-hospital care was there before the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital triage, telehealth, and remote patient monitoring. As shown in this year’s Future Health Index report, health care leaders now view expanding care beyond the hospital as their highest priority, after employee satisfaction and retention . Like them, we believe that building more hospitals cannot be the only answer to meet the growing demand for affordable and accessible healthcare. Distributed care is driving the traditional hospital-centered care paradigm. Instead of patients coming to a central location, distributed care cares for the patient. We envision health care being delivered through a decentralized network of outpatient clinics, retail locations, and home monitoring, coaching, and treatment. The glue that binds this network together is the experience of the patients it serves throughout their care journey.
The reasons for this paradigm shift are more pressing than ever. Health systems around the world are under increasing financial pressure, with health care costs taking up an ever-larger share of countries’ GDP . In many countries, hospital care accounts for the largest share of these costs, accounting for more than $1 trillion in the United States alone . There is a growing awareness of the need to move to the lowest possible cost of preventing and addressing health problems early in order for health care to remain affordable and sustainable. As chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer continue to rise, the challenge for hospitals is that they are understaffed to keep up with the increased demand for care. A global shortage of 6 million nurses prior to COVID and a shortage of 4.7 million nurses who will retire in the next few years has been exacerbated by pandemic-related burnout, leading to a shortage of 13 million nurses by 2030 . Projections of physician shortages are equally worrisome  , prompting health care leaders to ask how to shift care away from labor-intensive hospitals to more labor-efficient home and community settings. Additionally, patients expect a digital healthcare experience that does not require them to spend expensive time and money on travel – in some cases, they can communicate with their doctor remotely. During the pandemic, 60% of patients who were familiar with the benefits of telehealth found virtual care more convenient than in-person care .
Telemedicine And Health Insurance: Virtual Care Trends In European Countries
The pandemic has also cast a stark light on long-standing inequalities in access to health care in many parts of the world. In the 2022 Future Health Index report, we see how this has fostered a sense of social responsibility among healthcare leaders to improve access to quality care for all patients, regardless of location or origin . This is still a far cry from today’s reality, where half of the world’s population does not have access to necessary health services. We can and must do better. So what does a more widespread and accessible healthcare system look like? As shown in the graphic below, we believe it is useful to distinguish four care models that follow the care journey across different patient touch points. Let’s take a closer look at each model, starting with the one that has seen the most rapid growth in recent years: virtual care.
When Australian healthcare provider West Moreton Health was faced with a disproportionately high number of emergency department visits and potentially curable hospital admissions, they looked for new ways to make quality care accessible to needy, chronically ill patients. Remote patient monitoring turned out to be an important part of the solution. In partnership with West Moreton Health, it developed a virtual patient engagement program called MeCare, which uses in-home medical devices to collect patient-reported outcome data and biometrics, including blood pressure and oxygen levels. Results are viewed in real-time to actively engage participants with personalized health coaching. Early results were significant, showing a 28% reduction in potentially preventable hospitalizations in chronically ill patients. Since then, West Moreton has expanded MeCare to cover more patients and use cases, including COVID-19 monitoring, medication management and mental health. This is a great example of how virtual care can offer healthcare professionals a window into a patient’s day-to-day health. Now they don’t have to rely on episodic measurements. They can now track a patient’s health over time and provide ongoing care management wherever the patient is. In this case, it would also benefit patients in small rural communities in the West Moreton area, making the local healthcare system fairer and more inclusive. Another way to monitor patients at home is with wearable patches that support early detection of cardiac arrhythmias to prevent stroke (recurrence). Such patches are becoming increasingly invisible, allowing patients to lead active lifestyles while extending doctors’ vision from the hospital to the home. Add to this the power of cloud-based AI, which can detect early signs of cardiac arrhythmias based on more than 20 million ECG recordings, and we can provide treatment teams with the insights they need to intervene early.
Clinical-grade home ECG monitoring may also benefit research. Decentralized clinical trials equip patients with the tools to record and share data at home, rather than having patients visit the research site multiple times during the trial. This not only improves the patient experience, but also helps prevent the attrition that is common in clinical trials. More importantly, it can make clinical trials more accessible to people who have not traditionally been represented. Typically, 70 percent of potential participants live more than two hours from test sites. Decentralization expands trial access to a larger and more diverse pool of patients, thereby contributing to better quality outcomes that are more representative of the general population .
Of course, not all clinical care or research is done remotely. Personal interactions remain important to many aspects of health care. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be tied to a fixed location that requires patients to travel. What if care shifted to wheels for patients to travel instead? This is the basis of mobile health services. For example, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, we launched a first-of-its-kind Mobile Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with nine beds that could be deployed in a single day to rapidly augment the ICU. where potential is needed and improve public relations. Such highly flexible solutions can help reduce the impact of future disasters and pandemics to improve access to healthcare and prevent hospital overcrowding. As another example of mobile care, we piloted the use of medical trucks in Ida, Japan to provide on-demand primary care services to patients in underserved communities with a shortage of qualified medical professionals. Mobile medical trucks combined with telemedicine facilities allow patients to connect with a remote clinical expert. The clinical expert, in turn, can provide a virtual guide to assist the local healthcare provider in using advanced mobile equipment such as a hand-held ultrasound scanner. Although there is still much work to be done to expand the scope of application of such mobile diagnostic solutions, we believe that they hold great promise for the future. Improving them with AI will make it easier for local healthcare workers to get the right images and then interpret them correctly. That’s why we’re excited to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on an AI-based ultrasound app that helps nurses in low- and middle-income countries identify potential pregnancy complications at an early stage. Mothers have a high chance of giving birth to a healthy child. Especially in areas where the nearest hospital may be miles away, mobile healthcare solutions can make a real difference right in the heart of the community.
With the rise of virtual and mobile care, we will see healthcare services delivered in accessible locations such as department stores, shopping malls, gyms and airports. During the pandemic, pop-up clinics played an important role in easing the burden on the health system by providing testing and vaccinations on a large scale . There are many other routine exams and medical procedures that can be delivered in community-based settings to relieve hospital resources, improve access to care, and support early detection and diagnosis.
Is Virtual Healthcare Delivering On Its Promise?
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