This blog post was written by Deniz Temelli, Business Analyst at TechAlliance.
Over the last few months the Advisory Services team at TechAlliance has seen a wave of new clients all working in the telemedicine space.
The applications of telemedicine are extremely broad, and each of our clients are working within a different piece of this diverse industry. It is becoming increasingly clear to our team as we work with these clients that telemedicine as a whole is gaining a lot of momentum and has the potential to have a great impact on our health care system.
Based on my own readings and research, I see telemedicine involving three key segments that gradually increase in complexity and impact.
First, there are biometric trackers that collect patient data and make it available to physicians and care givers anytime, anywhere.
This category of products includes home monitoring systems for elderly patients and wearable devices for individuals with chronic diseases. These tools will alert care givers if there is an emergency so that patients can access timely care. However it does not necessarily change the way that care is delivered. The patient still needs to travel to their care provider, or their care provider needs to travel to them.
There is a second group of products that all impact the process of health care delivery. These products allow patients to access a physician or care provider in a more convenient way.
This grouping of products includes apps and websites that allow patients to conveniently book appointments or complete other administrative tasks online.
There are many start-up companies now competing in this space including OpenCare from Toronto which services much of the GTA and Southwest Ontario as well as major hubs in the US. This is a particularly interesting area because it requires recruitment of two types of customers: patients and physicians.
Although these products are useful tools, the technology does not fundamentally change the traditional model of health care delivery.
The final segment, which I feel has the largest impact on the health care industry, is telemedicine networks that allow physicians to provide care remotely.
The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) has been branded as one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world with 135,000 patient events and 11,000 webcasts in 2011.
Although the OTN has made a lot of progress by setting up telemedicine video conference stations through Community Care Access Centers across the province, like this one in Windsor, there is still more work to be done as it is not as widely implemented or utilized as it could be.
OTN has huge utility as it removes the requirement that a patient and physician have to be in the same physical location to receive and provide care. This allows specialists particularly to provide care to rural and remote areas, and helps manage physician utilization rates as they can access larger groups of patients.
Overall, OTN has the potential to reign in the rising cost of health care in Ontario. At the same time, implementing a system-wide solution like OTN requires the cooperation and coordination of multiple health organizations which has not always been a strength of our health care system in the past.
Telemedicine is gaining momentum and has the potential to change how patients access care, and how we look at our health care system as a whole.
Similar to the EMR industry, it is likely that this space will soon become crowded and consolidation will take over, but for start-ups and entrepreneurs who have a strong technology that will help move the industry forward, this could be an opportunity to get involved on the ground floor.