The New Age of Virtual Patient Care

It all starts when a person begins to not feel quite like themself. Some time goes by and they realize that liquids and Tylenol are not cutting it. The person realizes it is time to see a doctor. A call is made and an appointment is set. A few days later the patient is in front of a physician, but not before someone is filling out a chart of pertinent information to be passed along to the doctor. Most all can relate to the painstaking time lost sitting in the waiting room beforehand, even though an appointment was set. Post visit, the patient carries on to the pharmacy to pick up any prescribed medications and goes about the rest of their week.

The above scenario is what many are accustomed to and most often experience. However, technology is no longer just about cat videos and laughing babies. Patients are now able to have a completely new experience due to technology that is less than 10 years old. Groups like Teladoc and Dr. OnDemand allow patients to literally see a care provider from general practice, to psychiatry, to pediatrics all with a smartphone and an internet connection. Patients like myself are no longer dissuaded from making an appointment which most likely needs to be fitted around a work schedule and family needs, along with that dreaded time in the waiting room.

Voice recognition technology has also made its way into patient care. According to CNBC, a verbal checklist read off in an Alexa-styled fashion prompted the patient to speak up about a latex allergy while in the OR. To the surgeon’s surprise, this allergy was not in the chart! Had this tech-step not been included in the process, who knows what could have happened once the operation had started.

These young technologies not only save the patient’s time and possibly even their life, providers can also reap a time-saving benefit. Voice recognition software could allow for verbal patient charting, which would reduce the time a provider spent clicking on fields and filling out forms. The administrative work would be done faster and more effectively, allowing the physician to spend greater time with the patient, or see even more patients. The transcribing of notes from an assistant like Siri or Alexa has yet to be exploited, but that doesn’t mean facilities are not looking into it. According to Forbes, providers are spending over two-thirds of their day doing paperwork. No one went to medical school to get really good at filling out forms.

A hospital in Boston has already created their own app for Alexa. The app is called KidMD, which allows the user to learn more about common illnesses and even dosage information for select medications. There are some facilities that are looking for opportunities to utilize these tools as a way to expand or improve outpatient care. This is becoming critical in monitoring older patients at home. It is theorized that vocal patterns could even be monitored to get insight into the patient’s mental health, such as identifying depression. Overall, adapting to and implementing these forces could be a real game-changer in the world of healthcare.