It’s 2018, and many things have become digitized. Books to ebooks; maps to GPS; doctor visits to… well, maybe not yet. But that’s the discussion that many in the industry are having. It’s true, house calls by doctors have fallen out of favor with many, but not unlike a lot of things, today’s healthcare innovations have a bit of the past built in them.

Telemedicine is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Healthcare has become little more than people taking an extended lunch from work to visit their doctor and talk about their health for an hour. Conversations with a physician happen, at most, a few times a year, and a trip to the doctor’s office still can be an uncomfortable experience. Today’s healthcare industry lags behind the service industry in a lot of ways, but innovations continue to surface at an exciting and staggering rate. Amongst the changes occurring is a focus on a more customer-centric system, and telemedicine is perhaps one of the ways such change is occurring.

Emerging medical technologies’ analyst, James Laskaris, says, “Every physician has a smartphone these days.” He continues, “And most people have a smartphone. Couple that with a network that can send anything anywhere in the world with some sort of smart sensor—maybe it’s an ECG, or a pressure sensor, or something like that—and now you have the ability to take any kind of patient parameter or image and send it just about anywhere in the world.”

The Benefits

Telemedicine offers many benefits for a customer-focused experience. In addition to the comfort of seeing a provider from home or work, the added savings’ benefit is a big appeal for many. The average stay in the ICU is about $1,500 per day, and rates are likely to only increase. The benefit of office visits in the past has been the superiority of the technology in the facilities. But with recent advancements in health technology that are at the consumer’s fingertips, we will likely see an increase in remote visits.

Tech Advancements

The cardiac monitors and health applications of today are far advanced of those from even a decade ago. Today’s connected ECGs can send real time updates, store important data for the doctor to review, and cultivate a health centric mindset. Successful knee and joint replacement surgeries have taken place with monitors that send real time updates of possible infections or complications. These advancements are thanks in part to microelectronic technology (MEMS), something experts have been working on since the 1990s. What was originally built for electronics has been repurposed to serve as microimplants in the body. Accordingly, today we have access to tiny sensors for artificial hips, artificial knees, pacemakers, and more that can connect directly to our smartphones and send data anywhere in the world.

The result? Real-time health data updates and a growing relationship between the patient and the physician. And while many questions remain unanswered, remote healthcare will likely prove to be a vital asset in the continual improvement of patients’ lives.