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Healthcare In The Metaverse

The Opportunities For Healthcare In The Metaverse

September 12, 2022

The Metaverse has been inundating the news recently as a way to usher in a new era of virtual reality for teenagers, digital connectivity for adults, and e-commerce for businesses. However, can it do more? If you are one to believe that the Metaverse is just another online distraction, think again. Research believes there are abundant healthcare opportunities in this intricate and virtual universe. To understand its real impact on the world of medicine, it’s essential to know what makes Metaverse so diverse. 

So, What Exactly is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a one-stop destination for all virtual communication needs. It aims to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) onto a single platform. This means you can basically access everything and interact with anything here. That said, it is a universe that is continuously growing – designed to incorporate networks and present a more immersive reality. A space like that could bring great value and efficiency to healthcare. Here’s how:

Enhanced Telemedicine

Online medical consultations, an integrated system for monitoring patients remotely, and seamless home delivery of medication revolutionized post-pandemic healthcare. These systems have helped patients connect with their healthcare practitioners even when the world was under lockdown. Moreover, they created a scope for patients in remote villages to access better quality healthcare. Virtual reality headsets can further enhance this technology by creating a more realistic interactive experience. As opposed to websites, video calls, or apps, virtual reality in the Metaverse can take the patient-doctor relationship a step further.

Access to the Best of Healthcare

The Metaverse enables not just access to healthcare, but will also allow you to get your hands on the cream of the crop. This means you can sit in a clinic in the USA, even though physically you are in India. The doctor doesn’t have to rely on your explanation of the symptoms, they can examine you to a certain extent. This can also be beneficial to people seeking therapy, especially in the field of hypnotherapy or aversion therapy. These require the medical practitioner to be present with you and virtual reality does that.

Creating a Dummy Patient

The Digital Twin technology has been able to tap into creating digital replicas of objects. In the Metaverse, this can be taken a notch higher by creating digital dummies of the patients themselves. This can help healthcare professionals test the best options for offering care from reactions to medications to consequences of surgery and so on. This will reduce post-surgery mortality rates by a significant number and prevent other accidents in healthcare.

Decentralization of Data

Blockchain technology continues to make a name for itself for offering the safe distribution of decentralized data. This means all your information will be transferred as code and no one can tamper with it apart from you. Experts believe that blockchains can have a massive impact on the healthcare system in the Metaverse owing to their many benefits. Highly classified, sensitive healthcare data that is currently extremely vulnerable to exposure can be stored and exchanged securely in the blockchain. It can save hospitals and other healthcare organizations the financial loss of millions and protect the privacy of patients too.

The Metaverse is an ever-growing universe where the possibilities of convergence and creation are endless. It has a long way to go in order to be fully incorporated into a system that continues to prefer traditional methods, however, Its many possibilities make it perfect for creating a more streamlined healthcare system that is accessible to everyone.


Chronic Care Use Cases for Remote Patient Monitoring

July 11, 2022

In today’s fast paced world, chronic condition management can feel like a daunting task. Chronic conditions are currently one of the largest causes of mortality and recurring healthcare expenses and, according to the CDC, six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic condition. In most cases, a consistent effort towards recovery on the patient’s part can help alleviate the symptoms of several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and asthma.  However, due to several reasons, patients tend to not adhere to prescriptions and reverse any recovery that may have been done. This increases the number of hospital readmissions, puts the patient’s life at risk, and can put a larger financial burden on them as well. Apart from enabling accessibility from remote locations, remote patient monitoring has also helped offer chronic care to patients.  

Remote patient monitoring enforces a patient’s recovery by offering constant reminders and tracking of vitals (blood pressure, blood glucose level etc.) which encourages accountability on the patient’s part and keeps the healthcare provider in the loop as well. This way, not only is the patient expected to keep track of their own condition and recovery,  but the physician is also constantly available to offer input wherever necessary. This has in turn led to a drastic reduction in the number of hospital readmissions, prevention of medical complications and drug errors. 

Here are some chronic conditions whose management using RPM services is being studied and has shown some positive results:

Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a genetic chronic condition that affects the blood’s normal clotting process. Home therapy, which can include injecting plasma (clotting factor present in the blood), has so far encouraged independent management of this condition. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a study was conducted on patients in a European Hemophilia Comprehensive Care Centre (EHCCC). Despite the ongoing pandemic, results showed that remote patient monitoring improved access (79%), reduced inconvenience (82%), was easy to use (94%) and facilitated good communication with the HCP (97%). The technology helps patients monitor their bleeding and infusions, receive feedback in real-time, and encourage compliance with medication. They also help patients stay connected with their friends and families, and people who have been diagnosed with the same condition as well.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic condition wherein the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are affected. This leads to a loss in vision, pain, impaired muscle coordination and fatigue. It can be managed with physiotherapy and Immuno-suppressants depending on its severity. A study was conducted in 2017 to evaluate web-based patient-reported outcomes (wbPRO) in patients diagnosed with MS. Results showed that around 52% of patients reported a better understanding of their condition and around 16% wanted to continue with wbPRO content. They also got a better insight into certain mental symptoms such as depression. According to another research published in 2020, remote patient monitoring and telemedicine proved cost-effective and satisfactory for patients.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is chronic condition characterized by frequent seizures, loss of awareness, and unusual behavior in patients. While the frequency of seizures can often be reduced via medication and lifestyle changes, epilepsy still requires lifelong care. Remote patient monitoring can help create a steady and constant care system for individuals diagnosed with epilepsy. Research showed that remote patient monitoring has also helped patients with epilepsy get therapy despite the limitations imposed during the COVID pandemic. Another study published in 2021, showed the promise of implementation of a remote electroencephalogram (EEG) test for epilepsy patients. The EEG test measures the electrical activity in the brain and with the use of a medical device and specially designed software, this data could reach the healthcare provider virtually. This helps not just patients who live in remote locations but also reduces the burden on neurologists through automated interpretation.      

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires constant monitoring of a patient’s blood sugar levels and intake of insulin injections. Remote patient monitoring can help with efficient management of diabetes through periodic reminders, constant updates and regular monitoring of blood sugar. A study published in 2019 showed that patients who participated in remote monitoring managed to keep their blood sugars at an average level. Moreover, these systems come equipped with glucose monitors that help patients stay aware of their hemoglobin A1C levels. Similar tools can also be utilized to offer better care to children with diabetes.

Hypertension

Hypertension is a chronic condition caused by constant high levels of blood pressure. There is plenty of research that has supported the benefits of remote patient monitoring in the management of hypertension. Some of the hurdles that patients with hypertension face are inconsistent blood pressure measurement techniques, their own lack of self-management, masked BP and incompetency of healthcare providers. A study published in 2021 showed a drastic reduction in the systolic BP of the urban-dwelling population with hypertension. More thorough research into the specific aspects of remote blood pressure monitoring can really help build on this. Another research published in January 2022 indicated a drastic 64% (343 of 552) response rate for clinicians to electronic health records (EHR). RPM prevents this condition from escalating by monitoring blood levels which were seen in 81% of the test subjects in a study in 2018.


Can Remote Patient Monitoring Improve Post-Surgical Care and Recovery?

April 29, 2022

Every individual deserves the best of healthcare – from quick and accurate diagnoses to continued health monitoring and timely health insights. Remote patient monitoring has facilitated this, along with enhanced healthcare, that includes steadfast assessment features and remote access to most healthcare services. It has enabled a quick diagnosis of chronic conditions, definitive preventive measures to tackle them, and a reduced cost in overall long-term healthcare expenses. However, there is still plenty of scope to explore the entire potential of remote monitoring. For instance, a large area around whether remote patient monitoring can improve post-surgical care and recovery is still untapped.

A patient’s surgery can be daunting and post-surgery recovery can be overwhelming. As a patient, you will need to remember the long list of post-discharge medications and your medical practitioner’s verbal instructions to ensure effective aftercare. An improper post-discharge recovery can lead to severe post-surgical complications and even readmissions. Remote patient monitoring has proven to alleviate the patient’s stress around post-surgery recovery care by offering reliable features. Some of them include increased communication between the medical practitioner and patient, automated reminders, cautionary alerts based on constant monitoring, and effective at-home care without additional readmissions. Studies have proven the efficiency of remote patient monitoring in post-surgical care and the technology will continue to show steady growth.

What research indicates…

Post-operative remote care is still under scrutiny and a subject of scholastic research. However, most of the fact-finding has shown positive results. 

  • A study was conducted by a group of healthcare professionals to test the efficiency of post-discharge after surgery virtual care with Remote Automated Monitoring (RAM). The results were promising with a higher detection rate for drug errors.
  • Research published in the National Library of Medicine showed a reduction in the number of emergency department visits and readmissions in post-surgery patients, along with an improved quality of life.
  • The National Library of Medicine also published a study on post-operative care in cardiac patients who underwent monitoring using remote devices. The primary benefit of the remote monitoring system was that many hospital readmissions were avoided, saving patients additional costs. This was only possible due to the accurate measurements of vital parameters and quick responses to the hospital application requests. Moreover, about 6.1% of serious medical complications were averted due to an early diagnosis by remote devices.

Benefits of remote patient monitoring for post-surgical care and recovery

These studies offer concrete proof of the reliability of remote monitoring systems and wearable devices in efficiently managing post-operative care. Patients can now avoid the excess hospital charges by remaining at home and avoiding readmissions. The telemedicine system promises to deliver the following post-operative care features to every individual patient:

  • Constant communication with their medical practitioner
    The pandemic proved how crucial alternate means of communication were, especially in the healthcare sector. The ability to stay in touch with your doctor or nurse, as and when the need arises, can be a life-saver. It saves crucial time that can be lost in transportation and is accessible to patients even in the more remote areas. Instead of piling the patient with post-surgery instruction booklets, the doctors can guide them remotely in a planned manner. Moreover, they can be easily notified of any unforeseen changes or side effects during recovery.
  • Constant monitoring
    The remote patient monitoring system comes equipped with wearable devices and other tools to measure vitals that can enable constant monitoring. The devices can track patient compliance, symptoms, and recovery progress by assessing temperature, pain levels, incision photos, etc. They can then transmit this data to the healthcare practitioner to encourage quick interventions in case of an emergency. This can save time that would be wasted on transportation and in the waiting rooms of clinics and hospitals.
  • Self-care alerts for patients
    The remote devices can also be programmed to offer self-care guidance and automated workflows that rely on AI. For instance, the device can offer periodic reminders to take medications, change the dressing, or provide first-aid solutions to minor emergencies. 

Post-operative remote monitoring has grown exponentially during the pandemic, due to the incessant demand for no-contact care. At UCLA, patients who have undergone heart surgery can benefit from their Cardiac Telehealth Program. The program offers constant monitoring and instant relaying of crucial health data to the medical staff. Apart from that, the patient can electronically send daily recovery updates, pictures of the incision site, and other important data such as weight, height, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels using the tools provided with the program kit.

According to statistics, 88% of patients from a US target group did opt for remote healthcare in 2021 and around 4% were even willing to switch doctors for this. Patients want the best care that they can receive and remote patient monitoring offers this at a reduced cost in the long term. Being connected to your healthcare service providers and digitally tracking your vitals can really help mitigate post-surgery distress, especially for patients who live by themselves.

Read more about the top healthcare technology trends in 2022.


Facts About Wearable Medical Devices And Remote Patient Monitoring That May Surprise You

April 11, 2022

Remote or wearable patient monitoring devices have revolutionized healthcare, enhancing the quality of people’s lives. Whether it is the tracking of steps, counting calories burned, or sending emergency distress signals to the closest healthcare facilities, these devices can do it all. Remote patient monitoring has shown significant improvements in immediate and effective patient care by ensuring constant connectivity between patients and physicians. Moreover, this healthcare system has evolved over time to provide improved outcomes in patient monitoring at reduced costs.

The digitization of healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has really surprised us with some smart healthcare. Statistics show that at least 45 million US patients are currently relying on remote patient monitoring as of 2022 and the number could touch 80 million by 2025. The technology is still nascent and has a long way to go. Meanwhile, here are some facts about wearable medical devices and remote patient monitoring that may surprise you:

Prediction and prevention of certain conditions

According to a survey by the CDC, the US currently spends around $3.5 trillion on treating chronic and mental health conditions. In the US, 1 out of 3 deaths every year are due to heart diseases and stroke, more than 34 million people are living with diabetes and $50 billion is spent annually on mitigating chronic lung issues. Remote patient monitoring can help predict certain health conditions such as diabetes and eventually prevent them through valuable feedback and timely inputs. This is backed up by research conducted by KLAS that surveyed 25 healthcare organizations. Of these, 38% reported a reduction in admissions related to chronic conditions.

One example of preventative monitoring is a wrist device that can prevent nausea and pregnancy-related morning sickness. The FDA-cleared device performs this function through effective neuromodulation. Another project under work is trying to create embedded breast patches to aid in the quick detection of breast cancer through breast tissue monitoring. 

It can easily transmit data over the internet

This is not a biggie, but a really fascinating insight into how the remote patient monitoring technology really works. Wearable devices can be tweaked as per the individual patient’s needs and conditions to monitor specific data. This data is then compiled and a summary is sent to medical professionals and even off-site monitoring centers, that then offer quick recommendations or solutions. This method of data transmission can make healthcare so much more accessible. According to statistics, 88% of patients from a US target group did opt for remote healthcare in 2021 and around 4% are even willing to switch doctors for this.

Efficiently track your blood sugar levels

If you were one to believe that wearable and remote patient monitoring devices could be used just to count your steps and blood pressure, this one is for you. The devices can effectively help you manage diabetes by constantly monitoring your blood sugar levels and updating you with any changes. Moreover, it can also track medication effects, progress on treatment goals, and add suggestions for follow-up appointments. Apart from this, remote monitoring can further be tweaked with devices that test for anticoagulation, perform an ECG, monitor maternity and pediatric care, check blood oxygen levels and even track weight.

Mental Health tracking

Mental health care is still largely sidelined and inaccessible in the US. About 19.8% of adults and 15% of adolescents in the US reported having mental health conditions between 2021 and 2022.  About 60% of the youth and 56% of adults did not receive any medical treatment Over time, the number of adults experiencing suicidal thoughts (about 5%) or death by suicide has also been on the rise. Wearable devices can effectively monitor extreme weight loss/gain, frequent irregularities in heartbeat, and motion tracking to detect psychomotor agitation and retardation to effectively predict mental well-being. According to experts, these are some of the most crucial indicators of mental distress and mental health conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to PTSD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. 

The first RPM was in space

Remote patient monitoring took birth somewhere in the 19th century when physicians began conversing and consulting on the phone. Over time, x-rays were being sent on the wire, neurological exams began being electronically transmitted, and psychiatric consultations were sent through pay-per-view TV. The first patient to be monitored remotely however was Alan Shepherd, the first American in space. In 1961, Shepherd’s vitals were being monitored through an EKG, respiratory sensors, and thermometers. Today, the technology has grown to monitor patients for all kinds of conditions from the comfort of their homes.

The cost of RPM

According to research,  the global RPM systems market is projected to be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027. That is a whopping 128% increment from the market’s current statistics. However, despite such a high valuation, remote patient monitoring systems continue to remain cost-effective. Reduction in the cost of commute and a decrease in the number of hospital readmissions can make healthcare much more feasible. Moreover, with effective monitoring, the time required for physicians to make accurate diagnoses also reduces. The university medical center in  Mississippi implemented the Mississippi Diabetes Telehealth Network. In the first year of its implementation, the cost savings were estimated to be $339,184 per patient. 

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring systems still have a long way to go. However, the current progress is indicative of how far it has come and how much easier it would make healthcare for everyone. That said, patients and physicians need to be clear on their goals and how they can achieve them since one can never be entirely dependent on RPM, yet. 

Read about the top healthcare technology trends in 2022 on our blog.

 


Top Healthcare Technology Trends in 2022

February 10, 2022

The healthcare industry is eternally evolving, such as digitizing medicine to make it more accessible and efficient and revamping it to fight illnesses better. However, the last 2 years has taught us that the healthcare industry can be better. This has encouraged many tech and pharmaceutical companies to put more effort into overcoming past challenges. Healthcare and technology going hand in hand to overcome the global pandemic have led to several major changes in the sector. Whether you are a healthcare provider, a patient, or an insurance company, these healthcare technology trends will make your 2022 better. 

Interoperability to the rescue!

The current global pandemic demanded social distancing between people. Interoperability promises to help make doing that easier. A system where various healthcare-related units such as pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, insurance agencies function as one digital unit will be a win-win for everyone. You will be able to access all your data on your device without having to visit any of these institutions unless it’s extremely inevitable. However, interoperability has faced many challenges in its execution. Several tech and healthcare companies are making efforts to overcome it. Experts are expecting it to take better shape in 2022, which will do wonders for all parties involved.

Telemedicine will take center-stage

Telemedicine has been in the works for a long time, and the pandemic created the urgent need for accessible healthcare. According to WHO, almost 50% of the world population is still deprived of it. A study by Forbes suggested that 43% of medical consultations during the first few months of the pandemic were remote, i.e. online. Apart from that, a lot of COVID patients were suggested, or pushed, to recover at home. Telemedicine can help them by creating a centralized communication system such that healthcare providers can offer virtual care in real-time. Apart from that, encouraging patients to wear health-tracking devices to detect heart rate, stress, and blood oxygen levels can also make it easier for professionals to monitor them. The only major hurdle that telemedicine currently faces is people’s adjustment to it, since many patients still prefer an in-person interaction over an online one.

Welcoming the AI

The data inflow and exchange in healthcare is tremendous. The burden that it put on healthcare providers during the pandemic could have easily been dealt with by an AI system. It can send out the entire database of medical updates in the world,  such as information related to COVID, necessary precautions, symptoms, distribution of vaccines, and anything else that could be important, a lot more efficiently. Along with that, AI in healthcare can make a huge impact on interoperability, helping workers deal with CT scans, X-Ray, and MRI imaging. It could serve to help take the administrative load off of healthcare providers. Telemedicine could employ AI as a way of communicating with patients about their symptoms and relaying this data to the concerned doctors. This could help save patients and doctors a lot of time. 

Preventative Medicine

What if you knew where the next outbreak was going to happen or what the risk factors were for the health of the population of your area?  Preventative medicine aims at predicting diseases before they are contracted. A well-developed and smart AI could help identify events such as the next outbreak, how healthcare institutions can prepare for it, health risk factors for various geographical populations, and so on. History shows that outbreaks are inevitable but AI could help humanity manage them better. Not just that, it could assess populations to predict lifestyle diseases and mental health conditions too provided the population provides accurate data. Healthcare professionals hope to make health management and illness prediction more efficient in 2022 helping change lives for the better.

A (robotic) helping hand

Plenty of eager startups worldwide are investing time and money into revolutionizing robotic systems. The goal is to enable robots to help understaffed hospitals overcome the challenge they face when offering care. Surgical robots have been around since the 1980s and this year expects them to get better at mitigating risks and expediting recovery time. Autonomous robots can further this by taking up cleaning, transportation, and disinfection tasks. A study said that they could also be utilized to help admitted patients take their medicines on time, and even communicate with them. The idea is to reduce the pressure on the human workforce by delegating it to a robot.

Finding that finesse through AR / VR

For those who might not know, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) involve lenses and headsets that help create an altered world. This can either be entirely virtual (VR) or an overlaying of virtual elements of the world in real-time (AR). This can be of tremendous help to both surgeons and patients alike. Surgeons would be able to train without fear of putting the lives of patients at risk or using cadavers. A lot of healthcare institutions are looking to make AR / VR a part of their systems. Moreover, AR / VR systems have also been known to help patients with mental conditions such as psychosis, autism, and phobias. They can help create a safe and comfortable environment for them to help them work through their fears with much more ease. AR / VR systems can help other professionals associated with the healthcare industry too. For instance, an AR-integrated device can help create a traffic-free path for an ambulance or provide patients with directions to the nearest clinics or hospitals. 

Personalized medicine

With the help of AI and genomics (the study of genes), medicine will see a more tailored approach in its production. This means that prescription drugs will be modified to help people individually instead of aiming to treat a larger population. This can help mitigate allergies and cure other medical conditions such as  Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and so on. This year will also see an increased investment in Nutrigenomics, a field that will help design diet plans based on your genetic dispositions. Read our post on Remote Patient Monitoring.


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