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As reports show daily, the healthcare industry is dealing with an overwhelming demand for solutions, ranging from supply chain issue with regards to PPE and staffing to such complex support systems as ventilators. However, after 15 years in the MedTech space, we’ve long waited for the comprehensive integration of online-offline medicine. So, while we’re trying to stay “negative” on our COVID-19 tests, we’re feeling positive about the accelerated digitalization of healthcare. Innovation is often the born of necessity and hardship. We’re seeing that play out in an industry forced to adapt or buckle under the sudden burden of this crisis. New devices, many crafted with stunning ingenuity, hit the market in April and May. Without the current popularity of walking as an activity, would a device as functional and beautiful as the new Alinker Walking Bike so quickly hit the market? Beyond the marvel of new gadgets, we’ve noticed an even more important change: the accelerated digitalization of the industry.
Accelerating the Transition to Telehealth
With limited opportunity for patients and providers to connect, the industry had to adapt. Telehealth became part of the “new normal.” Remote medicine is now a “must have” option for consumers and will likely stay that way in a post-COVID world. The results of this change will have far-reaching, positive implications for the future of patient-provider relationships.
The loosening of regulations, as well as the relative maturity of video conferencing and remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology, will motivate continued innovation in the field of telehealth. For example, prior to March 2020, Medicare did not cover most remote, real-time diagnostic quality session as reimbursable. The options were limited to virtual appointments within rural hospitals and clinics, allowing them to connect with doctors in more central locations. Now, in-home telemedicine is not only covered under Medicare, but is available through FaceTime, Zoom, and other non-standard platforms.
The growth of their service has been exponential. According to CMS, only 90,000 fee-for service beneficiaries used virtual care in 2016. This is less than the number of beneficiaries that used their covered telehealth benefits between March 29th- April 4th. Medicare owes this change, in part, to federal telehealth regulations relaxing in March. However, rather than being a temporary relaxation of regulation, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services hopes to extend the allowance of telemedicine indefinitely.
Virtual visits provide convenience, quality, and cost-savings for provider and patient
When the “corona crisis” quickly overwhelmed hospitals in March, 3d-printing professionals and enthusiasts rose to the challenge. It only took a few months for designers to populate the internet with PPE designs in a variety of styles.
Open-source 3d library PRUSA Research created one of the first popular designs, a 3d printed face-shield that’s now been printed around the country.
A PRUSA Face Shield
Supercomputing and Artificial Intelligence
Both AI and Supercomputing joined the fight to beat COVID-19, and are delivering fantastic results. Researchers put IBM’s Summit to use in the race to find a cure, resulting in the discovery of 77 corona-repelling chemicals.
IBM’s Summit, one of the fastest supercomputers on Earth
Similarly, The Folding at Home Consortium (FAHC) re-purposed their network of volunteers and partners to research protein structure in the novel coronavirus. The group is already well-known for their contributions to biomedical research, utilizing a worldwide network of personal computers to simulate protein folding. Their computing network achieved 2.43 exaflops (floating point operations per second) in April, setting a new record for the project. We predict this increased interest in their project can only better the world’s chances in the fight against COVID-19.
The medical applications of blending real-world elements with virtual overlays are endless. Now, medical device startups are more motivated than ever to realize this potential.
Recently, AR leader Vuzix teamed up with telemedicine startup VSee to develop the most advanced smart glasses for telemedicine. The product allows physicians, first responders, and other health professionals to share their real-time experience with others in a conference-style setting. This way, colleagues can literally “see” through their eyes and provide the most accurate counsel possible.
Check out more startups creating VR and AR solutions for medicine here.
We expect that the accelerating online-offline integration will only further the options available to patients, providers, and other stakeholders. Though many pandemic-related challenges have yet to be addressed, we’re staying positive about the rise of remote medicine.
Are you working on a technology solution for a healthcare problem? We would love to know how the pandemic influences your project. We can also advise you on any upcoming product launches. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (415) 351-2227.
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