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Tele-med for Health Equity



Healthcare is one of the basic human rights, crucial for the prevention and treatment of diseases. While advancements in technology and society have driven the field of medicine forward, 2 major challenges persist: the lack of accessibility and the burden of high costs. Currently, almost half of the global population, approximately 3.5 billion people, still lack access to essential health services, with those fortunate enough to have access often grappling with exorbitant prices. The increasing healthcare expenses are poised to push nearly 100 million households into extreme poverty. These issues require urgent attention, particularly in emerging low and middle-income nations. Even in more economically developed countries, the accessibility and affordability of healthcare depend on geographical location and the socioeconomic status of individuals. International Universal Health Coverage Day, observed on December 12th, calls on countries to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage (UHC). Celebrating Universal Health Coverage Day underscores the necessity of establishing a robust and inclusive healthcare system while advocating for those who remain underserved, thereby encouraging people, organizations, and countries to make resolute commitments that propel the world closer to achieving UHC by 2030.


READY FOR VIRTUAL MEDICINE

Tele-med or Tele-medicine, is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. In less severe cases, healthcare professionals, including doctors, can diagnose and offer treatment options to patients without requiring an in-person visit to a hospital or clinic. Such innovative solutions streamline healthcare efficiency while simultaneously increasing access. According to GSM Association, mobile broadband network coverage extends to over 95% of the global population. The cost of an Internet of Things (IoT) wireless sensor decreased by 200% from $1.3 in 2004 to $0.44 in 2018, expanding opportunities and accessibility for potential patients. While concerns exist about the accuracy of remote diagnoses due to the lack of real-time patient data, technological advancements have made up-to-date health information available to healthcare professionals. A GREAT example are devices such as smartwatches and rings, which now come equipped with sensors to monitor heart rate, exercise activity, vital signs and sleep patterns. The new Apple Watch has a feature called ‘Fall detection’ capable of detecting potentially harmful falls and alerting the authorities to your location. Tele-med offers the benefits of eliminating the time, expenses, out-of-pocket costs, and inefficiencies associated with in-person care delivery.


FUTURE OF TELE-MED

As technology in this field has advanced and seamlessly integrated, a wealth of data sources has emerged. Data science technologies now possess the capability to personalize healthcare and predict outcomes with GREATer accuracy. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and various machine learning algorithms can analyze patient health data alongside extensive records of millions of others, instantly notifying clinicians to potential health crises before they even arise. These predictive insights not only have the capability to save lives but also save time, cost, and efficiency for both patients and healthcare professionals. Progress in data science, mobile broadband connectivity, network infrastructure, and biosensors, along with the rapid adoption of tele-health and remote patient monitoring, have garnered recognition within the healthcare provider community. According to the World Economic Forum, 56% of clinicians anticipate that this technology will increasingly influence their decision-making processes in the future, simultaneously alleviating the cognitive load on providers by pinpointing patients in urgent need of care. Similarly, in 2022, 63% of clinicians worldwide anticipate that the majority of their consultations will occur remotely within the next 10 years. Additionally, 49% of clinicians agree that in the next decade, the predominant form of healthcare delivery is expected to transition to the patient’s home.


To ensure that tele-med becomes a widely adopted and successful option in the future, it demands collaboration. Whether it is the collaboration among healthcare providers, patients, government-operated and commercial health insurers, community-based organizations, and technology developers, working together is essential to establish an environment conducive to tele-medicine. The ultimate goal of implementing this predictive and personalized healthcare system is to enable early medical interventions and mitigate medical crises, leading to improved health outcomes across countries of all sizes, locations, and stages of economic development.



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