Experts analysing the changing trends in telemedicine agree on the promising market opportunities set to open up over the next four years. But they also stress the importance of the accessibility of technologies for both healthcare professionals and patients and the crucial role of big data analytics to optimise the ecosystem.

Telemedecine-medicamentsCost savings and new markets

The concept of telemedicine, or remote healthcare solutions using connected devices, has come a long way over the past few years. Various surveys show that both practitioners and patients are increasingly in favour of it: in a report by Cisco, for example, 70% of respondents were open to the idea, whilst another by Intel revealed that 50% of the patients polled said they would trust a diagnosis made via video conference.

This shift of opinion is an opportunity that needs to be seized in order to address key issues in health monitoring, and in particular adherence to treatment in the case of self-administration. According to a press release issued by the WHO, failure to take prescribed medicine for chronic diseases is an increasingly worrying issue. According to a doctor at the WHO, cited in the article: “Poor adherence is the primary reason for not achieving the full health benefits medicines can provide to patients.”  Interestingly, 70% of cases of failure to take prescribed treatment are due not to forgetfulness but a conscious decision on the patient’s part. In France alone, such decisions generate a cost of €2 billion, 1 million days in hospital and 8000 deaths a year. According to PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper), strict adherence to medical treatment in the European Union could result in cost savings of €99 billion by 2017.

This, combined with the change in attitudes towards telemedicine and the emergence of new technologies is opening up major new market prospects. According to a report by IHS Technology, worldwide revenue from telehealth services and devices is set to jump from $446 million in 2013 to around $4.5 billion by 2018.

Digital-Health-Telemedecine-Econocom

The patient: taking an active role in healthcare

In a post on LinkedIn entitled “The day of the passive patient is over”,

Toby Cosgrove, CEO and President at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, stresses the crucial importance of patients in their own healthcare.  Cosgrove says that at his clinic, patients have access to most of their medical records (e.g. test results, prescriptions, X-rays, etc.) online or on their smartphones.

This is all very well, but, as pointed out by Forbes in “Digital Health In 2014: The Imperative of Connectivity,’’ it does rather hinge on said patients being familiar and comfortable with the related technology. There is a risk that patients will set aside the new health and wellness apps and devices once the novelty wears off, particularly with older patients who, as the article puts it, are “still wearing a Timex’’.  To get round this problem and fulfil the true potential of telemedicine, a great deal of education and engagement is required to get patients on board with the role of technology in their healthcare. Connections around patients, patient groups and clinical trials are also vital and can lend valuable insights. One researcher even believes that health connections may be best found on consumer-driven social media sites like Facebook.

Telemedecine-BigDataThe role of data in developing the telemedicine ecosystem

So how to convince patients, encourage healthcare establishments and develop a sustainable telemedicine ecosystem?

In “5 insights from digital health CEOs at JP Morgan Healthcare conference’”, Medcitynews reports on a panel discussion by healthcare professionals which focuses mainly on the role of big data and analytics, which are essential for:

  • Improving care quality
  • Educating and encouraging people to adopt a healthier lifestyle
  • Ensuring better cooperation between healthcare professionals, companies and investors.

The article also points out that:

  • Using predictive analytics can lead to a better understanding of patient needs, by applying business models that combine B2B and B2C.
  • Startups should focus initially on how to attract users and produce data to show the benefits of digital health, rather than on revenue.