Telemedicine, digital health vital to med industry's transition into the future

Home visits, telemedicine and digital health all will be ubiquitous as healthcare reform continues to take hold, according to University of Pennsylvania-based health economist Ezekiel Emanuel.

Emanuel, who served as a keynote speaker at the New York eHealth Collaborative's Digital Health Conference on Tuesday, predicted that 1,000 acute care hospitals will close as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to MedCity News. To that end, he said, top hospitals will conduct complicated medical procedures, with patient recovery transitioning from such facilities to the home.

Telemedicine, in particular, will be vital to such efforts, he said, as it will allow for physicians to treat patients on the patients' terms.

"The hospital won't be the locust of care that it has always been," Emanuel said, according to Healthcare Informatics.

The vision is similar to ones shared by both Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, and Eric Dishman, chief healthcare strategist at Intel. Topol, prior to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in 2013, told FierceHealthIT that the idea of attrition of the need for regular hospitals needed to be top of mind.

"The only reasons to have hospitals in the near term, thanks to the advances of remote monitoring capabilities, will be intensive care units, which are not going to go away, and operating rooms, as well as pre- and post-operation recovery areas," he said. "But the remaining monitoring can be done at home, and will be far less expensive. Additionally, there won't be as high of a risk for infections."

Dishman, in an interview with FierceHealthIT at HIMSS' 2012 conference, said the passage of healthcare reform would lead to an unleashing of the innovation hounds. "I think we'll start to see the innovation quotient go up significantly fairly quickly because now there's economic incentive that can allow that to happen," he said.

Dishman added that by 2022, face-to-face visits would be the exception rather than the rule.

Emanuel said digital tools also will help providers to cut costs through more refined and accurate mining of data in medical claims and electronic health records.

Interestingly enough, a new survey of roughly 1,500 Michigan primary care providers published in the American Journal of Managed Care found that most respondents believed that health IT use would reduce their capacity to see patients, going forward. 

To learn more:
- here's the MedCity News article
- read the Healthcare Informatics post