Telehealth: The Next Frontier of Healthcare?

Telehealth – which lets users access healthcare services remotely through a mobile device – can help the time-strapped and mobility-restricted individuals receive professional healthcare anytime, anywhere. In digitalising the nation, the government has highlighted the need for technologies to improve access, affordability and quality of healthcare services. As the current tech-savvy population ages, telehealth will become an even bigger part of our nation’s future healthcare needs. While it is set to gain traction locally and in the region, the challenges and misconceptions surrounding telehealth should be addressed to provide clarity while capitalising on its strengths.

The evolution and importance of telehealth and telemedicine

Healthcare is one of the least digitised industries historically but advancements in offline to online digitalisation and data collection will bring it up to date. According to a UBS research, Ms Quek shared that the amount of data generated by the healthcare industry globally in 2030 will be equivalent to the total amount of data generated by all other industries in 2017. The healthcare industry lets set to grow exponentially, driven by improved processing power and Big Data analytics. Another key benefit to note would be the provision of personalised healthcare where one has greater control over courses of treatment, care provider selection and pricing. The increased flow of useful data between and amongst care providers and ancillary services will help the industry transition from one that is prescriptive in its status quo, to one that is predictive in the near future.

“Telehealth is not meant to replace traditional doctor-patient processes. Instead, it is here to complement the state-of-play, and act as an extension of current healthcare services.”

Benefits and challenges in the adoption of telehealth services for individuals and companies

Telehealth was created with the intention to increase accessibility to healthcare, while keeping costs low and affordable for patients requiring non-emergent medical care. For instance, telehealth provides greater convenience for patients as they can access their electronic data records anywhere, even when travelling overseas. Patients with long term prescriptions can also utilise telehealth for medications, without having to go through the lengthy hassle of consulting a physician at a clinic for the same management advice for a long-standing condition. Lastly, patients with mobility restrictions can find telemedicine very useful, as their caregivers need not take time off to accompany them to the doctors’.

Even in cases where emergent care is quite necessary, Ms Quek observed that new technologies with monitoring capabilities such as wearables can alert one from impending medical conditions such as heart attacks or the onset of chronic disease, thus highlighting the value that telehealth can bring to one’s quality of life.