Virtual healthcare, telehealth, and telemedicine have been around for some time, and yet, till 2019, only 11% of the population made use of these services. Most people would prefer in-person visits to be completely sure that they were given the correct advice and suggested the required treatments.
But 2020 saw the virtual health landscape experience a revolution of a kind.
COVID made its entry into our lives, and soon, it was dangerous to be in a hospital, lest you contract this new, strange illness that seemed to be particularly harsh to the elderly and immunocompromised. Of course, now that people had no choice, they had to resort to virtual healthcare apps and websites.
And by the end of the year, the percentage of the population actively using virtual healthcare had risen to a mind-boggling 76%. However, there is still enough confusion in the minds of patients about the kind of service they can avail of in virtual healthcare and what virtual health may look like in the post-pandemic period.
In this blog post, we will do a detailed analysis of what virtual health is, which virtual care apps you should make use of and what the future of virtual health looks like.
How is Virtual Health Different from Telehealth and Telemedicine?
Virtual health refers to the remote collaboration of healthcare providers and patients for the diagnosis, monitoring, and subsequent treatment of illnesses.
It is not the same as telehealth or telemedicine, though.
When faced with the question what is telehealth, the answer is that it is the parent term under which virtual healthcare falls. It is an umbrella under which remote visits, delivery of medicines and portable equipment, and even telepathology methods like skin and urine tests fall.
Telemedicine, on the other hand, refers to the treatment of patients by healthcare providers without meeting in person, via calls and messages. This is mainly directed at the treatment of chronic illnesses where the diagnosis has already been made.
Virtual health, however, simply refers to the healthcare provider and the patient meeting remotely with the help of mobile apps, software, and videoconferencing.More than diagnosis, this is aimed at checking in with and monitoring patients over a longer period.
Read More : Top Reasons To Adopt Telehealth
Benefits of virtual healthcare:
When COVID forced our hands, people had to start video conferencing their doctors for primary diagnosis and followups. However, a year into this routine, many have found virtual healthcare to be more accessible and less expensive. And in countries like the US, where healthcare is not free, these two combined can push a major portion of the population to adopt this practice even in the post-pandemic world. But virtual healthcare seems to have many more benefits:
- With the large-scale use of virtual care apps, healthcare providers can extract a geyser of data using sophisticated big data techniques and help in building relevant records for further research on healthcare. .
- Artificial intelligence and augmented reality can be leveraged by virtual care apps to give doctors a clear picture of patient symptoms and infections. This will help them to accurately diagnose and treat patients without even meeting them in person.
- Teleradiology, telepathology, and teledermatology are being widely practiced now where patients are asked to store required data and forward it to healthcare professionals, who can go on to use that for diagnoses.
- It is a major help in geriatric care where providers can remotely monitor the old and vulnerable on a 24-hour basis.
- Patients need not be at home, and doctors need not be at the hospital for a visit to take place. This can lead to wider access to healthcare. Furthermore, NGOs can use these mHealth apps to bring expert providers to poorer parts of the world, where proper medical care is non-existent.
- It takes less time, money, and energy to look for a second opinion with a plethora of experienced providers listed on the apps.
- It reduces the need for continuous hospitalizations in case of chronic diseases. With remote monitoring, the provider can catch the symptoms and treat them remotely.
- Virtual healthcare can be instrumental in reserving the ER beds for really serious injuries and not chronic illnesses, which went unchecked due to the communication gap between patient and provider.
Cons of virtual healthcare:
- It will throw up new legal issues. Even with in-person check-ups and treatment, cases against doctors are common. Virtual healthcare will need its codicil so that both doctors and patients are protected.
- Trust issues with the provider may happen. Understandably, patients may not gel with all doctors. However, in the case of virtual care apps, both the doctor and the patient have to be signed up for a remote check-up. If one’s regular doctor is not a member, a registered physician needs to be appointed.
- And most importantly, there are serious security and confidentiality concerns..With the involvement of a third party, users need to be very careful of the information they store on their mHealth apps and providers need to ensure compliance with operational guidelines to avoid data breach.
Top 5 Virtual Care Apps
Many virtual care apps have come up in 2020, but here we will be discussing a select few which have managed to secure the trust of doctors and patients alike:
1. Doctor On Demand
Our top pick with over a million downloads and a whopping 4.9-star review on both Google and Apple play stores. The provider has a host of lisenced doctors, therapists and psychiatrists which make them one of the best healthcare providers in the market.
The sign up, appointment booking, and billing procedures are really easy, and patients without any insurance coverage are extended the same care and treatment. They generally treat patients on the basis of previous medical history.
Though there are no charges for signing up, the fee of each practitioner is comparitively higher.
Medici is HIPAA compliant and comes with a slew of doctors and nurses. One can avail a free demo, but the membership cost is $149 per months.
They have provisions for one-to-one messaging and videoconferencing with the chosen healthcare provider.
The patient can choose from their range of remote treatment plans based on health requirements and budget.
LiveHealth comes with a personal dashboard to track appointments, symptoms, and treatment. One just needs to enroll and set appointments and they will generate alerts prior to the appointment.
This app can prove to be a godsend for new mothers as they have therapists, doctors, and even lactation counselors.
It is customer-friendly, and they come with a track record of quick troubleshooting.
AmWell is one of the most popular apps famous for its robust videoconferencing feature. It allows 24/7 appointments with registered practitioners and generates alerts for upcoming appointments and provider availability.
Bonus point – The s can add their children to the chosen healthcare plan.
Diabetes is a major concern all over the world and if left untreated, can turn out to be fatal. But with the assistance of tracking apps like MySugr, one can not only keep track of the blood sugar, but also also get it treatedremotely.
MySugr is like a personal diabetologist – its tracks blood sugar and food intake, maintains a medication log, and even provides an accurate HbA1c estimate.
The patients are assigned a MySugr coach, who are trained and certified diabetes educators, for personalizing meals, medications, and exercise routines.
Future of virtual health
Though virtual health apps have been around for a while, COVID made us patients sit up and take good notice of them, analyze their pros and cons and truly use them. When Deloitte surveyed US physicians in January-February 2020, they found not many physicians were very encouraging of the trend. But come December 2020, it was found that some medical practices had increased their use of virtual care apps by 50%.
But have you wondered what may happen to virtual health once the threat of COVID has waned?
The future seems promising for virtual health! Now that people are using it, they can decide for themselves in what situations they need to personally visit the doctor and when an app may suffice.
The people who will benefit most from virtual healthcare will be the elderly in care homes. Since they were in the high-risk group for COVID, they had to be monitored remotely by caregivers and now it seems this may be here to stay.
However, issues like legalities and security issues have to be sorted out if virtual health is to supplement traditional medicine in a bigger way. For now, we can look forward to more people investing in these ventures, so that the potential of virtual healthcare is truly explored.
If you are a medical care provider or a medical practitioner, you may want to look into virtual health apps and how they can boost your practice. As a top-rated mobile app development company, Radixweb can aid you in your goal of providing virtual health services via apps and other technology. Reach out to us now!