How The Pandemic Might Change Healthcare
The pandemic is shining a new light o...
We take a look at how the coronavirus pandemic may change the healthcare industry in the short and the long term.
The pandemic is shining a new light on the possibilities of treating and monitoring people remotely. The possibility exists that new technology may bring back a high-tech way of doctors once again making house calls.
We've seen technology creeping into the doctor-patient relationship for some time. With the inundation of mobile phones into our society, automated call, text and email programs have proliferated and provided effective and scalable ways to stay in touch (and to remind people of appointments). With the development of the cloud, it was only natural that additional IT solutions for mobile devices and laptops would be developed. Patient portals are pretty much routine now, connecting the patient to the doctor's office for information and communication.
The cloud is also now being used to connect people via online video to the doctor's office for routine encounters, preop consultations, quick post-op checkups and so on. Delivering an in-office experience with online ease is the very definition of telehealth — although doctors themselves still might not be as involved in terms of actual patient interactions as they could and probably should be.
The use of virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) equipment (headsets) and VR/AR software applications specifically designed for the healthcare ecosystem could assist in changing that aspect of the relationship. For example, my company has partnered with Sheba Medical Center in Israel on the use of our VR healthcare platform for cognitive therapy, physical therapy, pain relief and numerous other uses, all through the hospital. During the pandemic, the hospital is able to use the technology to "remotely" treat patients quarantined in the hospital, alleviating the possibility of healthcare workers coming in contact with infected patients.
The United States may be closer to seeing the return of "house calls" electronically via the cloud, combining new telehealth technology with the capabilities virtual reality can provide. For instance, we've established several virtual reality telehealth clinics in numerous states around the country where clinicians are able to remotely control the headset in order to see exactly what a patient is viewing and adjust settings and treatment in real-time. Once patients can use the headsets independently, data from ongoing therapy can be stored and analyzed in real-time. Patient status monitoring is improved while remaining in compliance with HIPAA privacy rules.
Ongoing advancements in what can be treated and new protocols may bring about the possibility of doctors routinely working from home, which could free up time for more personal one-on-one video interaction with patients. These interactions may restore a more human relationship of caring and respect. Perhaps remote live interactions will sharpen the focus of both the doctor and patient in working together. Imagine a doctor establishing personal friendships and the information that could be gained from these relationships.
Hopefully, once it is understood how the current pandemic started and how it spread, it will lead to policy actions that will assist in the prevention or mitigation of future worldwide viral outbreaks. But there is no doubt medical virtualization and the role of telehealth has the ability to transform healthcare. Improving access to direct communication is an example of innovation within the medical industry that will ultimately drive more innovation.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”