January 12, 2021
It is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the growth of the telehealth and virtual care market over the last year. As case counts rose throughout the world, the demand for virtual care skyrocketed as people were forced to avoid in-person healthcare visits. With doubts over the effectiveness of virtual care alleviated, comfort with the use of telehealth has increased dramatically. While growth is not projected to continue at this torrid pace, research indicates adoption will not revert to pre-COVID levels when distancing measures are no longer necessary.
While most people’s idea of virtual care is a video call with their doctor, or one of the many virtual care platforms that have risen to prominence to provide on-demand urgent care, there is a lot more activity in this space than one might suspect. Virtual care is more than a visit, it is an ecosystem of medical devices, hardware, and software all geared towards meeting healthcare needs at a distance. For people with chronic conditions, for instance, this involves the software and device solutions that aid in the monitoring of their condition remotely. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of chronic disease pathways will involve remote monitoring by 2022.
Patients with these chronic conditions typically want to have a lot of ownership over their care journey and will desire ready access to their health information and relevant literature that can aid in the management of their condition. Therefore, the ability to conduct a more intelligent search through medical text to find information that is relevant to their specific condition and status will become an essential feature. We’ve all felt frustrated trying to use traditional search engines trying to find relevant information about our specific situation and having to sort through pages of results. And for non-chronic patients, this challenge surely resonates as well.
Recent advancements in machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) now allow for that type of intelligent search through the ever-growing body of medical text. Integrating these features into telehealth platforms can elevate the ubiquitous chatbot into a much more powerful tool for information and document retrieval, that can distinguish a platform above its peers. Users would then be able to ask the questions they want to ask, how they want to ask them.
This creates a great opportunity for telehealth and virtual care platforms to create a recurring customer base in addition to the more ‘sporadic’ customers who require acute care. To acquire these customers, care providers will want to tailor their offering to their specific target customers’ needs. This will be a great benefit to these companies’ financial performance and, more importantly, the patients’ experience.