The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly propelled telemedicine application development into the healthcare mainstream. Virtual visits went from a novelty to an absolute necessity almost overnight. Now, as the initial crisis stabilizes, many wonder – was telehealth just a fleeting bandage during an unprecedented time of need? Or is it the future?
Telemedicine is no short-lived fad.
In fact, it is on the cusp of revolutionary, permanent transformation into one of the primary modalities of healthcare delivery. The genie is out of the bottle.
In this blog post, we will examine the imminent changes on the horizon that will shape the rapid evolution of telemedicine in 2024 and beyond. You will gain insight into the coming wave of innovation in virtual care access, connected health devices, remote exams, integrated data, specialty use cases, and telehealth-centric business models.
The COVID-19 crisis offered a glimpse into the digital future of healthcare. Read on to understand how telemedicine application development will fundamentally reshape medicine into a more proactive, prevention-focused and patient-centered system. The opportunities stretch far beyond just video visits.:
#Trend 1: Greater Insurance Coverage and Access
One of the most impactful shifts will be greatly expanded insurance coverage and access to telemedicine app development services across patient demographics. Up until recently, many insurers offered limited coverage for telehealth visits. Policies often restricted virtual care to specific types of appointments or limited the types of providers and platforms that could be used.
In 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented sweeping changes to telehealth coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare can now reimburse for over 100 additional telehealth services, including emergency department visits, therapy services, mental health counseling, and more. Importantly, Medicare has also permanently removed geographic restrictions that previously limited telehealth coverage mainly to rural areas.
Many private insurers have followed suit in expanding telehealth benefits. Over 90% of large employers expected to provide telemedicine application development access for workers on their health plans.
This expansion of telehealth insurance coverage will open up virtual care access for tens of millions more patients in 2024 and beyond. Older adults, lower-income patients, and those with disabilities or without easy transportation will particularly benefit. McKinsey estimates up to $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spending could potentially be virtualized given the increased coverage.
Annual telemedicine usage growth is projected to be over 24% from 2024 to 2030. It will become the primary way many patients interact with their providers. Natural language processing (NLP), chatbots, and other emerging technologies will make telehealth interactions increasingly dynamic and smart.
#Trend 2: Connected Devices and Remote Monitoring
New connected health devices and wearable sensors have also gone mainstream, making it easier for patients to share important vitals and health data with providers during virtual visits. These include:
– Smartwatches and fitness trackers that monitor heart rate, sleep patterns, activity levels, and more. Popular models include the Apple Watch, Fitbit Sense, and Google Pixel Watch.
– Connected blood pressure cuffs that sync readings to a smartphone app, like those from Omron and Withings.
– EKG monitors that allow patients to take a mobile 30-second EKG, such as the KardiaMobile from AliveCor.
– Fingertip pulse oximeters that measure oxygen saturation levels.
– Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) like those made by Dexcom that share real-time glucose readings with patients and providers.
– Smart inhalers, insulin pens, scales, thermometers, and other connected devices tailored to chronic conditions.
Types of Connected Health Devices
Per a survey, 65% of patients now use some type of connected health device. These devices are especially helpful for managing chronic illnesses. They allow care teams to remotely track vitals and symptoms that previously required in-person visits. Any telehealth app development company can gain deeper, real-world insights to inform diagnoses, treatment adjustments, and lifestyle recommendations.
In the future, ingestible sensors, smart contact lenses, and skin patches will collect even more advanced biometrics. Along with the growth of the “Internet of Medical Things,” telemedicine app development will increasingly happen in context, with patient-generated data seamlessly powering personalized virtual care.
# Trend 3: Advancements in Virtual Physical Exams
While telehealth platforms have enabled limited components of the physical exam, providers have been constrained in their ability to fully visualize and assess the patient virtually. Innovations in several technology areas are poised to close many of these gaps in 2024 and beyond:
– High-resolution cameras built into smartphones and laptops continue to improve imaging and video quality to levels sufficient for many visual inspections.
– Specialized adapters like the TytoCare examine the ears, throat, lungs, heart, abdomen, and skin in high fidelity.
– Digital otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes allow detailed ear and eye exams.
– Mobile ultrasound probes can be paired with smartphones to share images in real time.
– Electronic stethoscopes like the Eko CORE can amplify heart, lung, and other body sounds for a virtual exam.
– Advanced auscultation belts use embedded sensors to pick up and transmit body sounds.
– Algorithms can process these audio signals into meaningful visual data representations.
– Augmented reality will allow patients to project a full-sized visual of their body for the telehealth app development company to inspect, annotate, and guide the exam.
– Haptic gloves combined with AR will enable simulation of palpations, pulses, muscle strength assessments, and range of motion.
– Virtual reality can immerse providers and patients together in a simulated exam environment.
Adopting these technologies by a leading telemedicine app development company ill remove many remaining barriers to comprehensive remote exams. Physical and virtual care will become intrinsically linked to benefit patients and clinicians.
#Trend 4: Interoperability and Data Integration
A longstanding challenge with telemedicine app development adoption has been integrating data from virtual care platforms into electronic health records (EHRs) and other health IT systems. Much of the early growth of telehealth has resulted in fragmented, siloed data across disjointed tools.
True transformation of healthcare delivery will depend on seamless data sharing and making data contextually useful at the point of care.
In 2024, we are likely to see an acceleration of initiatives addressing these needs:
-EHR Integration: Major EHR vendors like Epic and Cerner are developing improved application programming interfaces (APIs) to more seamlessly integrate real-time telehealth visit data into longitudinal patient records.
– Data Standards: Health data interoperability standards like FHIR and APIs will enable telemedicine platforms to connect with external apps and systems. Data normalization frameworks will allow medical devices to share streaming data.
Projected Telemedicine Usage Growth Rates
-Care Coordination: Platforms will directly integrate with pharmacy, lab, benefits, health information exchanges (HIE), and other systems involved in care transitions and population health.
– Analytics: With comprehensive data, analytics will identify usage trends, gaps in care, risk factors, and other clinically meaningful insights to guide telemedicine application development strategy.
Overcoming these interoperability challenges will allow telehealth to slot in as a natural integrated component of holistic care delivery.
## Trend 5: Telemedicine Specialty Growth Areas
Until recently, telehealth was primarily leveraged for lower acuity primary care visits and mental health. That is poised to change as virtual care grows across numerous specialties:
Remote access to intensive care unit (ICU) patients enables continuous off-site monitoring by critical care specialists. This tele-ICU approach has demonstrated benefits, including:
– Reduced mortality rates
– Shorter ICU and hospital length of stay
– Faster response times for alarms and alerts
– Improved adherence to care protocols
– Access to specialist expertise for smaller and rural hospitals
Virtual neurology consultation during emergent stroke care has become standard practice. Telestroke networks allow community hospitals quick access to neurologist expertise for time-sensitive evaluation and treatment decisions.
Outcomes data shows that telestroke significantly increases rates of life-saving interventions like intravenous thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy. According to a study, telestroke is now used in over 30% of U.S. hospitals.
Store-and-forward teledermatology allows clinicians to acquire images or video of skin conditions, which dermatologists can asynchronously review in depth. Live video teleconsultation is also being used for real-time assessment and diagnosis.
Among the benefits shown are improved access to specialty care, reduced wait times, and avoidance of unnecessary in-person referrals. Teledermatology utilization increased double fold during the pandemic and will continue rising, given the ubiquity of smartphones with high-res cameras.
Virtual physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy visits are practical options for many patients. Telerehab provides continuity of care after discharge, increased access for those with limited mobility, and reduced infection risks.
Digital measurement tools and wearable sensors that track patient movement, activity levels, and progress notes are enablers. Demand is being driven by recovery needs for long COVID patients as well as the aging population.
Telepsychiatry and Mental Health
Telemental Health has long been a pioneer telemedicine app development specialty. Virtual therapy and psychiatric services enable access regardless of geography. Digital tools improve engagement among high-risk populations. And care transcends episodic visits through continuous monitoring and digital therapeutics.
According to a study, telepsychiatry utilization increased 10-fold during the pandemic. Key drivers will be severe telemedicine app development company shortages and surging behavioral health needs. Integrated care models blending virtual and in-person behavioral health will emerge.
While still nascent, virtual surgery assistance holds promise for enhancing collaboration, expanding access to experts, improving training, and guiding complex procedures. Long-distance telementoring allows experienced surgeons to advise less experienced surgeons remotely.
Augmented reality can overlay virtual guidance onto the live surgical field. Robotic surgery platforms create digital environments amenable to remote guidance. While tele-surgery has a long runway, foundations are being built.
Telemedicine had been incrementally gaining steam before COVID-19 due to gradual policy changes, tech improvements, and shifting consumer habits. However, the pandemic radically accelerated adoption across providers, patients, payers, and regulators. It also illuminated telehealth’s untapped potential beyond basic teleconferencing.
While telemedicine application development solutions hold great potential to transform healthcare accessibility and delivery, there are also challenges to address:
– Reimbursement still poses barriers in many states and for several specialties, restricting universal telehealth access. Continued advocacy is crucial for coverage expansion.
– Shortage of providers trained in virtual care delivery models can hinder rapid scale-up. Investments in telemedicine app development training and recruitment are vital.
– Concerns about data privacy remain a key barrier for any telemedicine app development company and patient adoption. Robust cybersecurity and HIPAA compliance are mandatory.
– User-friendly solutions and physician buy-in are equally important for successful implementation. Change management is key.
However, with continued policy reforms, technological advances, public-private partnerships, and changing care delivery models, telehealth is poised for robust mainstream growth in the coming decade.
The next few years will see the telemedicine app development industry evolve into a more seamless, integrated, and intelligent component of the overall healthcare infrastructure. While initial limitations around reimbursement, technology, culture, and perception are finally giving way to pragmatic innovation.
Rather than a temporary fad, telehealth will increasingly become the preferred and superior modality for many healthcare interactions and workflows.
The future is bright for forward-thinking healthcare organizations that make strategic investments in telemedicine capabilities today. Partnering with a leading cutting-edge telemedicine app development company will be key to building next-gen virtual care platforms tailored to their needs.
At Consagous Technologies, a leading telemedicine app development company, we are at the forefront of designing and implementing seamlessly integrated, highly intuitive telemedicine application development solutions for healthcare providers across the country. Our full-stack engineering expertise and user-centric approach help maximize clinical value and patient engagement.
To explore how Consagous can help you implement scalable telehealth app development platforms and differentiate your services, schedule a consultation with our healthcare IT specialists. You can also see the reviews from our first-hand users on Goodfirms.
Let’s discuss how we can jointly shape the future of virtual care at your organization.