Telemedicine: Safe diagnostics in the pandemic - and beyond
Telemedicine: Safe diagnostics in the pandemic - and beyond
Who could have foreseen how the Corona pandemic would transform our lives? The work world has been transformed by mobile working and digital tools. Face-to-face meetings still matter, but they are not quite as important as they used to be. And telemedicine is changing how physicians interact with patients.
Telemedicine proved to be an important asset for the healthcare system during the Corona pandemic, because it enabled doctor-patient contacts – without physical presence, and thus without risk of infection. And even after the pandemic, whenever and however it ends, telemedicine will have to continue to accompany us. Sooner or later, the shortage of skilled workers and demographic change will hit the medical sector even harder than they already have. As a result, the local availability of medical services will be limited, and with it access to medical advice and treatment options. This is likely to affect office-based medical practices more than, for example, medical care centers or clinics. That's why we should take the opportunity today to lay the foundation for solid telemedicine that can continue to provide reliable care to the population in the future.
There are obstacles, but there is also a need
Telemedicine has proven its worth during the Corona pandemic as it helped to reduce contacts during medical treatment. And it will still protect both medical staff and patients from infectious diseases in future.
Nevertheless, we still face some obstacles here. Many healthcare systems are still characterized by division into sectors: hospitals, the office-based sector and health insurance companies are unable to exchange data efficiently. There is a lack of interfaces between the systems. Strict data protection requirements, especially in EU countries, must be taken into account when expanding telemedicine and can prove politically obstructive if there are reservations among the population. Of course, there are also technical hurdles: Everywhere where telemedicine could be particularly useful – i.e., away from large cities – there is at the same time a lack of technical infrastructure in the form of powerful Internet or mobile communications connections.
These obstacles must be removed if telemedicine is to be expanded, because the pandemic has already shown that there is a need and that offers are also being accepted. One example of the boost that the pandemic has given to telemedicine is the telediagnostic project "ProteCT": "The ProteCT system enables a complete robotic-assisted clinical examination of patients who might be at risk of spreading infection to others," says Dr. Maximilian Wolfgang Berlet of Klinikum rechts der Isar (University Hospital of the Technical University of Munich, Germany) in an interview with MEDICA-tradefair.com. There is no direct contact between all parties involved. "The patients responded very well to the system. Participants felt the robot-powered examination was just as pleasant as a traditional physical examination," he adds. ProteCT has already been tested in the hospital's emergency room.
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Medical apps are a good way of bringing telemedicine services to patients, and one that is already very well developed: Resmonics' ResGuard Med, for example, is software that medical app providers can integrate into an existing app. This can then analyze nocturnal coughing in chronic respiratory diseases as an additional function: "It contains a sound-based AI module that analyzes data recorded with the smartphone’s built-in microphone. The AI-based technology helps patients track the symptom severity and predicts disease progression," says Dr. Peter Tinschert, CEO of Resmonics AG, in an interview with MEDICA-tradefair.com.
ResGuard Med does not offer a telemedicine application by itself, but is used purely locally on the smartphone. At this stage, however, the software can help patients make a decision for or against a visit to the doctor. "The next morning, a "traffic light system" indicates in either green, yellow, or red how often users coughed at night and warns them to take precautions as the result of changes in the coughing pattern," as Tinschert explains.
One app that can replace a visit to the doctor in certain cases is dermanostic. Users of the app can use it to send in pictures of possible skin conditions and receive a diagnosis and prescription from a team of specialists. The app has also benefited from the Corona pandemic, as Dr. Patrick Lang, founder of dermanostic, explains in a video interview with MEDICA-tradefair.com: "Corona has already helped us because patients see that digitalization is necessary and they now have taken the required step to simply try it out. I see the potential of telemedicine as an opportunity to reach very many people, who do not have access to a dermatology specialist."
Dermatologist consultation via app – The successful start-up dermanostic
The start-up dermanostic, multiple-time exhibitor in the MEDICA START-UP PARK, unites telemedicine with dermatology: patients can upload images of skin diseases via app and receive specialist consultation.
Corona as a catalyst for telemedicine
Examples like these show how effectively the Corona pandemic is spurring change and new ideas - and not just in the workplace. We will not be able to digitally replace all doctor visits in the future, but as telemedicine offerings continue to expand, we will be able to assess which visits are necessary and act accordingly. This would not only make doctor-patient contacts safer – since there will still be infectious diseases after Corona – but also make processes in practices more efficient and save patients trips and waiting times.
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