Telecommunications advances such as expansion of 4G LTE networks are bringing new capabilities to both sides of the physician-patient connection. High-speed broadband enables telemedicine and remote care management of chronic illness, but it also allows patients to take charge of their own health.
"A bad end-user experience is when things go slowly or are unstable. That makes telemedicine difficult to adopt. That's what we don't want," said Arthur Lane, associate director of healthcare strategy and new market development at Verizon Wireless. "We need these solutions to work. We need something to help fight the escalation of cost, improve consumer and clinician satisfaction, enhance overall interactions, and help supply care to a growing and aging populace. How can we make this available to everyone? Reliable and secure high-speed connections."
Lane described four ways leveraging these high-speed broadband connections can improve healthcare's triple aim of increasing quality, decreasing cost and increasing patient satisfaction.
1. Virtual care
The focus of virtual care is to use connected technologies to create a clinic-like display in the palm of a patient's hand. From phones, tablets or computers, patients will be able to have a full visit with a clinician to help diagnose and treat their condition. This gives patients the ability to conduct healthcare when and where they want. "Patients no longer have to wait 20 days to see their primary care physician or even leave the comfort of their home if they're in pain or are contagious to spend time in a waiting room," remarked Lane.
2. Use of high-res video
High-resolution video allows for an accurate initial patient-clinician experience. Access to a mature network and LTE-speed bandwidth helps to manage telemedicine applications and programs used more seamlessly across a system. Glitches, bad connections or slow loading means time spent waiting. That can be detrimental to both a patient's health and a hospital's budget. Provision and outreach to patients can be done more easily and at a lower cost than before.
3. Managing chronic conditions
"In a common disease management world, we need scalability," said Lane. There are not enough nurses to deploy across the population at the right price. Diseases are growing exponentially, so organizations need to curate a more proactive system. By monitoring chronic conditions with biometric devices, clinicians can look at real-time, self-reported information. "For example," Lane said, "physicians can tell if a patient has checked [his or her] glucose levels. They can then instruct [the patient] on how to correct a bad reading, or can connect that patient to a nearby clinician for further assistance. This can be done through voice and video, but to manage that transaction seamlessly you need a faster network."
Stable, high-power networks provide an environment in which information is secure for both the patient and the clinician. Such networks help healthcare organizations stay compliant within their regulations, while also allowing for big data to be analyzed quickly and in real time. "Personal information by way of video shouldn't be done on free, downloadable applications everyone is using or on unsecured, slow networks either. They should be on healthcare-specific conference call programs," explained Lane.