Technology has been used to connect health care providers and patients since 1967. However, it hasn't been until recent years that communications technology has evolved to make the process easier and more efficient.
Technology companies and the health care industry keep working to increase the number of people who can access such services no matter where they are. And many of these services are covered by insurance.
The types of devices used to deliver virtual health care are also proving to be important. To make elderly patients more at ease with the technology, Cisco Systems is now working on a way to allow for doctor's visits via television.
The need for virtual care through TV
Cisco is partnering with telehealth company American Well on a device to allow doctors and patients to connect via a live television feed from the patient's home. Imagine a Roku or other TV set-top device dedicated to doctors, clinics and other health care professionals working for American Well.
The goal for both Cisco and American Well is to provide virtual care to the elderly or chronically ill patients who are housebound.
"This will allow health care that previously warranted hospital admission or facility stay to take place in the home, where so many of us prefer to be," said Dr. Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well. "Importantly, telehealth will allow us, and our elders, to expect longer, safer and more graceful aging in our homes."
Creating a virtual health care system for televisions may seem surprising since it’s "older technology." However, high-tech companies initially focused their efforts on desktop computers and smart devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
Now, health care providers realize that elderly patients, in particular, may not be comfortable using smart technology. That’s where television sets come in. American Well hopes to transform in-home TVs into what it calls "CarePoints" for patients.
More tech companies pairing with health care providers
The Cisco Systems/American Well collaboration is the latest to emerge following a move from the federal government.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced plans to not only expand access to telehealth services but also to increase patient coverage in its Medicare Advantage plans. The plans cover 20 million Medicare beneficiaries. Commercial health insurers also are providing coverage for virtual care.
Quality virtual care is important to hospitals, as the federal government now requires them to provide proper monitoring of patients after they are discharged. If hospitals fail to do this, they face financial penalties.
These moves by the government are providing tech companies with a financial incentive to dive into telehealth. This already is leading to innovations.
For example. Apple's smartwatch now has such features such as fall detection and heart monitoring. Other big tech names working on virtual health care are Comcast, Amazon and Google.
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