Review a recap of the latest digital health news, telemedicine innovations and applications, virtual care partnerships, and telemedicine research making news in February 2020.
Digital Health News
VA Agrees to Increase Telehealth Programs for Long-term Care Needs
The Government Accountability Office released a report outlining budget shortfalls and challenges for the VA to meet the long-term care needs of veterans in the next 20 years. The primary challenge involves bringing specialty care to rural areas as specialists and care centers are more focused within urban centers. Telemedicine services are well-suited to address care access issues, and the VA has agreed with the watchdog’s recommendation to leverage digital health to prioritize long-term care needs.
As the largest healthcare system in the US to use telehealth and mHealth, the VA is one to watch for the successful implementation of large-scale digital health programs.
Amazon Launches Amazon Care, What It Means for the Telehealth Market
This month, Amazon launched access to its proprietary in-house telehealth service, Amazon Care, to Seattle-based Amazon employees. Industry insiders suspect the company is planning on a public launch of the virtual care program after acquiring and hiring key players in the digital health space.
Amazon’s entry into the public telehealth space could expand the adoption of telemedicine to the public at large by leveraging it’s Prime Membership base of 100 million subscribers, but could also spell trouble for smaller telehealth companies with less brand recognition.
First Telemedicine Platform to Address Menopause with Mail Order Rx Launches
CurieMD, the first telemedicine platform to offer menopause consults plus mail-order prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy medications launched in California. The launch marks a continuing trend of burgeoning femtech startups, a hot area for digital healthcare investors and startup growth.
CurieMD is one of many new telemedicine companies focusing on service gaps in women’s healthcare—many of which are also founded by women. As a female-founded healthcare company, we commend the focus on women’s healthcare and investment in female-led startups and hope to see this trend continue.
Innovative Telemedicine Applications
How Barbershops in Cleveland Are Incorporating Telehealth to Screen for Hypertension
A telehealth and broadband business planner in Ohio has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to implement an innovative program aimed at reducing the risk of hypertension in at-risk populations. The pilot program brings mHealth blood pressure screenings into the barbershop, a business that often acts more like a community gathering space in many urban neighborhoods.
With 40% of African Americans living with hypertension, the program is attempting to bring healthcare to underserved patient communities via a commonly-accessed entry point.
VR Telehealth Clinic Helps Clinicians Bring Telemedicine into the Home
Clinicians in eight states will soon be able to prescribe virtual reality therapy through a virtual telehealth clinic—bringing behavioral, cognitive and pain management therapy directly into the patient’s home.
The new technology by XRHealth, combines therapeutic software, telehealth support, and a VR headset. The technology is currently focused on therapies for traumatic brain injury, stroke rehabilitation, stress, anxiety, chronic pain, hot flashes, and spinal cord injuries.
After being assessed by one of the company’s telehealth clinicians, patients will receive a VR headset in the mail and will be trained in virtual therapy by a clinician. The clinicians can then remotely monitor and administer therapy for patients to complete on their own.
So far, VR and AR technology has been focused on in-patient settings, so it will be interesting to watch how adoption changes as patients have more access to technology at home.
AMA Study on Physician Digital Health Adoption Shows Telehealth at Top of List
The American Medical Association released a study of physician digital health adoption in 2019, comparing it to a similar study in 2016, and found usage increased in all aspects of virtual healthcare, but most notably, in virtual visits. Teleconsult usage among physicians doubled from 14% in 2016 to 28% in 2019.
Interestingly, one of the most reported motivations for physician digital tool adoption was “helps reduce stress and burnout.”
As patient expectations for the technology increase and more health systems incorporate digital health care programs, we expect digital consults to change the look of a clinician’s workweek—for the better.
Clinicians at Work
Effects of Nurse Practitioner Growth on RN Usage in Hospitals
A study released in Health Affairs reviewed the impacts of the rapid growth of nurse practitioners on hospitals and specifically how it affects the registered nurse workforce. From 2010 to 2017, the total number of NPs in the U.S. more than doubled from 91,000 to 190,000. Meanwhile, the size of the RN workforce has decreased by about 80,000.
While the rise in NPs is helping mitigate the effects of physician shortages, hospitals will need to consider how to replace RNs who often hold positions for only 1-2 years before moving on to masters programs.