To say that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives is an understatement. Amid the disruptions, new trends emerged, and old structures collapsed. However, despite the chaotic feel of it all, city leaders now stand before a multitude of opportunities to improve connected communities.
One area with significant potential to deliver benefits is telemedicine. Over a six-week period (March 7, 2020 – April 18, 2020), telemedicine adoption among Medicare recipients jumped an outstanding 10,000%. Once social distancing orders took over and fear of contagion spread, telemedicine offered both patients and medical professionals a solution.
What may come as a surprise to some is that the connected medical tools – the video communication systems, and the cloud-based platforms that makeup telemedicine – were all ready for widespread adoption long before the pandemic. Just as the coronavirus emergency highlighted the importance of broadband for school and work, it also showed the value of robust connectivity for enabling online healthcare tools that have been around for years. Where broadband connectivity is in place, the main obstacle preventing telemedicine from gaining traction has been hesitancy around use, not the applications needed to make virtual healthcare work.
Widespread adoption – 93% of providers want Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to make telehealth waivers permanent
Perhaps the silver lining of the pandemic is that it forced telemedicine adoption. Telemedicine services and applications erupted, and now that we begin to go “back to normal,” it is apparent that telemedicine can be the conduit enabling widespread, safe, and reliable home-centric healthcare.
The recently released white paper, “Advancing Health and Wellness in the Smart Home,” produced by Connected Communities in partnership with The Internet & Television Association (NCTA), makes the case that government leaders, both state and local, can be champions of home-centric healthcare. The conditions needed for providing health and wellness services through a smart home are now in place, and the right partnerships between governments and the private sector can accelerate mass implementation.
The Future – 80% of diagnoses can be made from patient history alone
The pandemic made the case for telemedicine clear. Patients prefer the convenience of virtual healthcare visits, and in many cases, practitioners can effectively communicate with and diagnose patients remotely. Although there are still wrinkles to iron out (including regulatory issues that were addressed temporarily during the COVID-19 crisis), a future that extends beyond in-person patient care looks increasingly inevitable.
Additional glimpses of what telemedicine holds can be seen in a recent panel discussion moderated by US Ignite’s Mari Silbey, and featuring: Dr. Robert Corona, CEO of Upstate University Hospital and member of the smart community steering committee for Syracuse, New York; Bill Maguire, Connected Communities LLC; and Dr. Sudheer Dharankota, Managing Director Duke Tech Solutions and Chair of SCTE. Local and state governments wanting to achieve meaningful wins around the standard of living for their residents should begin to view telehealth services as a critical component of smart and connected communities.