The virtual doctor will see you now


Amazon is headed towards a new venture in health technology. CNBC reported that the company has a healthcare team that is focused on virtual doctor visits and health apps.

The tech giant has also been focusing on creating cloud-based solutions for electronic patient health records.

Along with Amazon, other tech corporations such as Apple and Google have been foraying into the world of electronic health management, trying to carve out a strong market share for themselves.

On the other side of the coin, companies already in the health business have taken it upon themselves to venture into data aggregation and analytics. Digitalisation in healthcare has numerous elements including management information systems solutions, which are going to be a frontline market in which companies want to create a strong foothold.

In a recent investor question and answer (Q&A) regarding the company’s role in the implementation of digital strategy and cloud-based solutions, Siemens chief operating officer Michael Reitermann stated: “Data aggregation and data analytics are very important aspects that Siemens can leverage.”

Remote healthcare case studies

There is a paradigm shift within the healthcare industry towards using data in a streamlined manner and reaching patients through technology. Companies are focusing on developing better data management systems and wearable technology, with a client-focused model. Businesses have already started to outline business strategies based on how well-integrated they are within the hospital environment and what patients are looking for from primary healthcare providers.

There are numerous instances where technology and healthcare are used in harmony to provide distinct solutions for patients. Recently Northside Center, a non-profit organisation in Harlem, received state approval for psychiatrists to have virtual visits with students.

The psychiatrists used video conference technology to diagnose and prescribe medications, similarly to a standard consultation. So far, the State Office of Mental Health in New York has approved 46 similar initiatives to offer telepsychiatry.  

In addition, Canadian service Maple enables physician consultations across the country. Maple allows patients to access a physician with a click of a button, allowing consultations for minor injuries, urinary tract infections, and ear and eye infections. However, the physicians are unable to prescribe narcotics or controlled medications via Maple. Maple uses the same business model as Uber to create a platform to connect doctors to patients. The service creates an alternative to the usual long wait times and allows Canadians to consult with a doctor for minor problems.

Issues for public healthcare

Nevertheless, there are issues raised with technological advances within the industry; safety and security of data and communications is paramount, as well as what kind of medical laws can govern the technological space fairly for the provider and the patient.

An issue raised by the Ontario Health Coalition regarding Maple specifically is that it creates a two-tiered system, while Canadians see healthcare as a right that should be accessible and equal for everyone. Maple is not able to bill under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan and charges fees starting from $49 to be able to connect with a physician, which raises the question of how these programmes and advancements in technology can be integrated into a system controlled by the government.

The IT healthcare market is a multifaceted industry that is likely to grow at a considerable rate in the coming years. With technological advances and the need for faster and more accurate care, the industry will grow to fill the unmet market needs. However, there is a need for clearly defined laws and regulations surrounding the use of data and the means of communication used within the industry.