Everything you need to know about telemedicine

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Tuning into telemedicine


Telemedicine shows considerable promise for increasing life expectancy and quality of life, write Pratap Khedkar and Dharmendra Sahay of ZS Associates in the Global Innovation Index 2019.


This article is part of a series about the power of innovation to solve social and economic challenges. Stories and statistics are drawn from the Global Innovation Index 2019.


We are at the beginning of a significant shift as the primary driver of global healthcare impact switches from biotechnology to information technology. Consulting with doctors over your mobile phone or computer is called telemedicine – a new way of delivering healthcare to increase access in the developing world and improve patient experience in developed nations.


Using video chat, telemedicine apps allow primary care providers to view patients’ symptoms and send images to specialists for diagnosis.


Why now?


Telemedicine is a technology ripe for picking. Broadband access and smartphone usage are rapidly becoming ubiquitous throughout the world, with 90% of the developed world and 41% of the developing world now on broadband. Meanwhile, smartphones are projected to reach 40% of the global population by 2021. These technologies allow providers to gather patient details and deliver treatment remotely.


Developing world


In the developing world, one of the biggest unmet needs is for widespread access to basic and affordable medical care. The last decade has seen a significant increase in government focus on innovative healthcare solutions, including several telemedicine and AI-based initiatives in China, India, and some African countries.


In India, telemedicine is an increasingly fast-growing sector. Major hospitals are entering public-private partnerships that are boosting the telemedicine market, which is expected to reach US$32 million by 2020. The aim is to extend low-cost consultation and diagnostic facilities to the most remote areas, via high-speed communication links.


As part of a platform-based healthcare approach, with integrated e-health records and AI-aided diagnosis and treatment, telemedicine can help developing countries leapfrog ahead on healthcare access, without the need to proportionally increase healthcare facilities and professionals.



AI and telemedicine


Increasing access without adding doctors is achievable with artificial intelligence, designed to replace the diagnostic powers of human beings. For instance, an algorithm is available that can detect pneumonia by listening to your cough on the phone (a human would want to listen to your heart through your lungs). This moves the process of diagnosing pneumonia to a remote location, and reduces the need for human expertise.


Developed world applications


Telemedicine also has a role to fill in the developed world, where it can improve patient experience. In the U.S., patients typically wait over 24 days for scheduled medical appointments, but by integrating telemedicine and AI into patient treatment and engagement efforts, outcomes are being improved.


In the competitive healthcare landscape, telemedicine is also becoming a way to give medical practices an edge in the battle to win customers.


The GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX 2019 is the result of a collaboration between Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as co-publishers, and their Knowledge Partners, Confederation of Indian Industry, Dassault Systèmes, SEBRAE, Brazilian Micro and Small Industry Support Services, and Brazilian Confederation of Industry.


Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) licence. That means you can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format for any purpose, even commercially, but you cannot change it in any way.


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