Telehealth could deepen health divide for disabled people
The widespread use of telemedicine as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic could be deepening the problems people with disabilities face when accessing healthcare.
This is the conclusion of a new report funded by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA), states that while for some members of the disabled community, the option to engage with telehealth has improved access to care, for others poor design, implementation and policy has made it worse.
Reasons for this include the design of many telehealth platforms, for example video calling which people with communication-related disabilities such as deafness, blindness and speech disabilities struggle to use. Online patient portals present similar problems.
There are also implementation concerns, as the authors found that the disability community "experiences less access to broadband services, and less ownership and use of hardware through which telehealth may be accessed."
To combat this, software developers must redesign telehealth technologies, both web and app-based, to make sure they're responsive and accessible to people with disabilities.
Assistance to learn how to use new forms of technology should be provided. There should also be qualified sign language interpreters, speech to speech translators, and readers to help improve access.
Closed-captioning, alt text, audio description, and large text options must also be provided. If these factors are taken into account people with disabilities will be able to fully engage with a broad range of telehealth services, the report says.
Additionally, telehealth can be beneficial compared to traditional clinical visits for people with disabilities, due to barriers such as inaccessible medical equipment, waiting rooms, and bathrooms.
Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline
Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare.
2011 - 2013
Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train.
A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users.
2014 - 2017
Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.
2017 - 2019
Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows.
In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day.
As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world.
Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events.
Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.
It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.
In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."
"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care."
Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers.