Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a huge number of innovative organizations across many verticals integrating real time communications into their websites, apps or devices to create new forms of communication and collaboration. Healthcare and, more specifically, telehealth is an industry in which we have seen a considerable amount of innovation.
We know that the global Telehealth landscape is rapidly changing and will continue to experience significant growth in the next few years. The US will be in the forefront of this shift with a projected annual growth rate of 56%.
Moving forward, we expect the top areas of growth in the telehealth market to be around home-based care and monitoring, remote physician services, video diagnostics, personal emergency response systems and mental health. It is therefore in these areas that we expect to see the most potential for integration of WebRTC & the OpenTok platform.
So what is driving such a rapid growth in this industry?
There are many social and economic factors that could explain the growth of the telehealth industry.
Healthcare costs are already at an all-time high and are projected to grow further in the coming years. For example, healthcare expenditure in the USA is expected to reach $5 trillion dollars by 2022. With that in mind, it is no surprise that organizations are looking for alternative ways to serve their patients. Telehealth solutions will drive efficiency and more effective responsive care to help control the escalating healthcare cost. For example, Australian company, GP2U was founded with the sole mission to make high quality healthcare available to more people by using technology to bridge the gaps between doctors, patients and other medical professionals in a range of diverse use cases.
Traditionally very limited medical procedures were reimbursed by health insurance providers e.g for a patient from rural areas or for mental health etc. However now Insurance coverage for telehealth is mandated by most US states. This will inevitably drive rapid adoption of telehealth services.
Affordable Care Act
Government legislations are also looking to keep costs down for example the Affordable Care Act is introducing Accountable Care Organizations with a sole focus on reducing cost and improving the quality of service that can be offered. Bodies like this are actively researching new technologies that can be leveraged to help them meet this goal.
Wellness & Preventative Care
Across almost all organizations that offer medical care, there is an increased focus on wellness and preventive care in an attempt to control long term cost. This trend is leading consumerization of healthcare and an explosion of mobile and connected health services.
What is happening on the tech scene?
Already we’ve seen significant growth in the number of telehealth platforms and services that are available, ranging from tools to help you to track your blood pressure with your mobile phone to telemedicine robots to monitor patients. For example Mobius Health uses already available medical devices such as a blood pressure cuffs, glucometers etc and syncs them to a smartphone app so information can be monitored by the user’s doctor. NetMedical is another innovator in this space using cutting edge video technology and cloud-based software to connect medical professionals so that they can share expertise and recommendations.
Hospital systems and insurance providers have started piloting e-consultation services. You can read more about this change here.
The mobile and connected health market is booming and a staggering 1.7 billion of us are predicted to download health apps by 2017.
Undoubtedly, the next few years hold potential for significant technological changes in the telehealth industry. Together exciting technology players, innovative services and changes to regulation are fueling growth in this sector. However there are concerns around data privacy, stringent regulatory requirements and complex healthcare workflows that could potentially slow down fast adoption of telehealth services. The question that remains for platform providers like TokBox is; how do we get past these constraints and make it easier for healthcare industry and their consumers to adopt newer telehealth services?