Although early uses of telemedicine were rudimentary, this technology has evolved into an incredibly convenient and cost-effective solution for healthcare challenges. (Credit: Tierney/AdobeStock)

The history of telemedicine goes back further than most people think. It has certainly blossomed in popularity in the last few years since the onset of the pandemic, but its beginnings date back to the 1950s.

When mid-20th century psychiatrists from Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital first implemented a closed-circuit telecommunications system so they could perform consultations remotely, medicine was forever changed.

Although early uses of telemedicine were rudimentary, this technology has evolved into an incredibly convenient and cost-effective solution for healthcare challenges. Plus, as a supplement to telemedicine, remote health monitoring devices have expanded access to healthcare for patients across the world. This article explores the evolution and current landscape of telemedicine, and how medical device OEMs play a critical role. Understanding the role of telemedicine and remote monitoring informs product development, market strategies, technological integration, and collaboration opportunities.

The Evolution of Healthcare: Embracing Telemedicine

Most of us have had a telemedicine appointment at some point now that we live in a post-pandemic world. Before 2020, telemedicine was a little rarer for the average person but still widely used in some communities.

The concept of remote healthcare didn’t start with video visits. Doctors used to diagnose patients via phone calls before video was even an option. One doctor even diagnosed a patient over radio.1 In the past century, we’ve seen an explosion of innovations in the telemedicine space.

As technology evolved, so did the tools for telemedicine. What once was a marvel of scientific advancement is now a standard expectation. Often, providers who don’t offer a telemedicine option are considered behind the times.

If providers want to keep up with the needs of their patients, they have no choice but to embrace telemedicine options. Not only is it accessible for patients who can’t travel, but it also offers a layer of safety and protection from preventable illness.

Advantages of Telemedicine and Remote Monitoring in Healthcare

If providers want to keep up with the needs of their patients, they have no choice but to embrace telemedicine options. (Credit: Andrey Popov/Adobestock)

There are numerous advantages to implementing telemedicine and remote monitoring, including convenience, cost-effectiveness, accessibility, and safety.

Convenience. The level of convenience that telemedicine offers to both the provider and the patient is unmatched by traditional healthcare visits. Remote monitoring devices offer patients mobility and freedom while their health is being observed. It also frees up space in hospital facilities that would otherwise have to give up a bed for a healthy patient who just needs vitals or other data monitored.

Cost-Effectiveness. The cost of keeping a patient in a hospital to monitor their oxygen levels is astronomical. The patient may have great health coverage, but the expense is still there. The alternative is simple: using a pulse oximeter at home can help a patient know when they might need to seek treatment, and these devices are quite affordable.

Accessibility. Elderly patients, disabled patients, and patients with several young children at home are all examples of people who may find it difficult to travel for appointments. Having the option of a telemedicine visit gives them access to healthcare they might otherwise have to forego. Remote monitoring devices do the same; having independence and access to devices outside of a hospital setting is a huge step forward for patients who need flexibility.

Safety. The pandemic taught the world a valuable lesson. Congregating in large numbers — in small spaces — can have dangerous consequences. Even if it’s just the run-of-the-mill flu, illnesses can wreak havoc on patients with weaker immune systems. Telemedicine gives people the option to stay home when they’re sick, stopping the spread of their illness and protecting everyone around them.

Remote Monitoring Devices: Transforming Patient Care Beyond Hospital Walls

Remote monitoring devices are some of the most impressive innovations in modern medicine. The ability to monitor, diagnose, and even treat certain diseases at home is outstanding. In addition to the benefits discussed above, remote monitoring devices provide a sense of autonomy to patients who would otherwise be strapped to machines in a hospital. To make sure patients get accurate readings and manage their health effectively, it’s important for them to understand how monitoring tools work, like the correct way to use oximeter devices.2

Remote Vitals and Data Monitoring Devices. People all over the world rely on blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, spirometers, and other devices that can monitor their vital signs. Some can record data by themselves, and others require the patient to keep track using an app or logbook. These devices provide valuable information to physicians about their patient’s health between visits.

Diagnostic Devices. ECGs and Holter monitors are two great examples of remote monitoring devices that can aid physicians in diagnosing serious illnesses. They can also help to monitor chronic conditions.

Treatment Devices. For patients who have a diagnosed chronic condition like diabetes or sleep apnea, devices like continuous glucose meters and CPAPs can help manage those disorders while also providing health data monitoring to physicians.

Challenges and Considerations in Implementing Telemedicine

Incredibly, some clinicians are still resistant to telemedicine and remote healthcare monitoring. In fairness, there are some challenges to consider in the space.

Some patients are uncomfortable with telemedicine because it feels impersonal, and they have concerns about their privacy. Some medical centers worry about the cost of implementing telemedicine programs. These concerns are valid but should be met with solutions.

Future Trends and Innovations in Telemedicine

The realm of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring is rapidly expanding. There are some trends and innovations to look out for in the field:

  • Be aware of who is more likely to use telemedicine services. Trending data shows that women and the elderly are more likely to utilize telemedicine.3

  • People with chronic diseases are the most likely to benefit from telemedicine. Designing products for programs that cater to that demographic should have promising results.

One impressive innovation in telemedicine is the ability to perform stroke exams via video. Since the likelihood of surviving and recovering from a stroke increases the faster it is detected, this is an incredible advancement that has the potential to save countless lives.1

Remote devices that can detect cancer with precision are emerging, which will be a game-changer in the early detection of the disease.4

Implications and Outlook for OEMs

Understanding the current landscape and implementation of telemedicine and remote monitoring is crucial for several reasons.

Product Development. Manufacturers can develop or enhance devices tailored for remote monitoring and telemedicine, such as advanced vital sign monitors, diagnostic tools, and treatment devices like continuous glucose monitors and CPAP machines.

Market Demand. As telemedicine becomes more prevalent and accepted, there will be an increased demand for compatible medical devices. Manufacturers can capitalize on this growing market by offering innovative solutions that cater to the needs of remote healthcare.

Technological Integration. Manufacturers can integrate cutting-edge technologies like AI, IoT, and advanced sensors into their devices to enhance remote monitoring capabilities, providing more accurate and real-time data for both patients and healthcare providers.

Collaboration Opportunities. Collaborating with telemedicine platforms and healthcare providers can open up opportunities for manufacturers to integrate their devices seamlessly into existing telehealth infrastructure, improving patient care and outcomes.

Addressing Challenges. Manufacturers should work on addressing challenges such as patient concerns about privacy and the perceived impersonal nature of telemedicine by designing user-friendly and secure devices with features that prioritize patient confidentiality and engagement.

Conclusion

Keeping an eye on emerging trends and innovations in telemedicine and remote monitoring allows manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve and develop products that align with future healthcare needs, such as devices for early cancer detection. Remote monitoring systems should be easy to use and easy to integrate into clinical practices.

References

  1. T. Nesbitt, “The Evolution of Telehealth: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?” Telehealth, Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012 Nov 20.
  2. S. Cumper, “How to Read a Pulse Oximeter Like a Boss,” Medshop blog, 2024 March 21.
  3. JW Lucas and MA Villarroel, “Telemedicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2021,” NCHS Data Brief No. 445, CDC National Center for Health Statistics, October 2022.
  4. AH Dalloul et al., “A Review of Recent Innovations in Remote Health Monitoring,” Micromachines (Basel). 2023 Dec; 14 (12): 2157. Published online 2023 Nov 26.

This article was written by Steven John Cumper, B.App.Sc. (Osteo.), M.Ost., Managing Director (Medshop Group). Cumper founded Medshop & ScrubsIQ while studying at RMIT University in Australia, expanding its reach to markets in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Malaysia. The Bunzl Group acquired a majority stake in 2021. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit here .