PRACTICE CHANGING INITIATIVES

R B Smarta, Vice President (HADSA) CMD-Interlink

Constantly declining volume of patients visiting hospitals and rise in adoption of telehealth, the new era in medical practices is expected to show the journey of patients and physicians from Telehealth appointments to Teletreatment & recovery in 2021. The year will be occupied with innovative marketing actions in medical practices and patient education programs in hospitals to help patients to be digitally savvy and much healthier.

Physical appointments, even referrals, have been declined due to pandemic as there was no active and physical consulting going on. It has affected both in-house patients as well as outdoor patients.

This is leading stakeholders toward telehealth platforms which are emerging at a rapid pace in various hospitals and private clinics, enabling the hospitals to expand their services in multiple and beneficial ways.

Tele-ICUs are one of the biggest examples arising in today’s scenario, where a number of hospitals placed at distant from one another, are able to communicate with hospital critical care units and achieve real-time services via technological advancements.

Surging incidences of infectious disease is the factor shaping patients’ mindset in such a way that they are obliged to choose a virtual platform, making hospitals rethink their old practice and service models. Although, quite a good number of healthcare systems have become well-equipped with this new platform, many are still struggling to maintain their identity in this new normal of healthcare practices. Reasons might be many — lack of right awareness about the platform, overreliance on old practices and service models, weak promotional tactics, etc.

This could be solved with new hospital practices and educating patients and caregivers in a right and beneficial way.

2021 will be the year filled with technology related initiatives; much more than ever seen in healthcare history. Telehealth is the area which will be featured in possibly advanced, profitable and patient-friendly manner and will be equipped with all those viable strategies to conquer any inevitable incidences like COVID-19.

Following are the components of telehealth through which hospitals are evolving and will continue to evolve in 2021 and beyond.

Tele-appointments

These have turned out to be an amazing option in the pandemic. Tele-appointment is the facility which was earlier seen at the hospitals with huge infrastructure. But the situation is different nowadays. Many reasons associated with COVID fear are fuelling the need for hospitals to adopt Tele-appointment technology even if the infrastructure is not huge. After all everyone wants to be in the race!

Physicians are carrying out telemedicine appointments, getting a look into their patient's health without ever having to see them in the hospital. This is helping elders and patients with chronic conditions, making a big revolution in healthcare practices.

This technology is showing impressive gains in providing services and giving entry to the medically inaccessible areas where hospital services are difficult to reach, ultimately propelling the establishment of telemedicine hospital centres in various rural areas.

Tele-diagnosis

Screening multiple patients is now possible while maintaining the treatment of others. Technologies such as China’s virtual diagnosis of coronavirus using 5G network are rooting in hospitals giving relief to physicians, hospital staff and patients regarding possible spread of infection.

Nowadays, ESA-supported robotics technology making good moves in radiology examination. This system is already in force in Europe and Canada for examining heart, abdominal, pelvic, and urinary tract diseases remotely. Using video conferencing, radiologists and cardiologists are remotely moving robotic arms and adjusting settings to capture best possible images. These technologies are incredibly helpful while dealing with COVID patients with other allied health issues.

Research to develop the best technology-based methods to provide virtual diagnosis, where necessary hardware installation in hospitals to make telediagnosis possible will always be the matter of concern for many underdeveloped hospitals.

Tele-treatments & surgeries

Real-time interaction with the specialists is making it easy to get proper and timely treatment and therapies making patients and hospitals more adaptive toward telehealth.

Many hospitals have adopted the digital way of prescribing i.e., E-prescribing which is constantly increasing and the market is its expected growth at a CAGR of 23.3 per cent, will reach US$ 3.3 billion by 2025. So ultimately, tele-treatments are opening the doors wide open for the already emerging E-pharmacy sector.

Various E-therapies are becoming more and more promising. Impressive moves are seen in E-psychotherapy, where psychiatrists are directly engaging themselves in patients’ rooms virtually and taking deep insights about patients’ problems and recovery.

Although many delicate surgeries are performed aboard, tele-health and technologies are helping patients and surgeons in the hospitals to be at their own location and operate the surgeries efficiently.

Hospitals having 5G network and robot-assisted equipment and hardware will provide fast data transfers with little to no latency in the procedure giving excellent outputs while performing virtual surgeries.

Tele-monitoring & E-rehabilitation

Post-surgery monitoring is always important after a patient is discharged. Hospitals are now evolving in the field of post-surgery consultation. Telemonitoring provides a better option to virtually meet the physician while lying on the bed at home, without struggling with paining stitches on the way to hospital. Elderly patients or patients with decreased mobility are extensively monitored with these technologies, helping them to recover much faster.

E-rehabilitation is useful for patients with musculoskeletal conditions, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and recovery of motor function. Doctors in hospitals can monitor the movements of patients in yoga and provide therapy in a much effective manner, allowing patients to recover faster than expected.

Although many hospitals are actively participating and adopting all these technologies, some are still not using it to its full potential. Many hospitals are wellequipped with all the necessary hardware and infrastructure but are dragged down by poor marketing of services.

Following are some marketing and promotional strategies if employed by the hospitals will surely help in reaching new patients and reengaging old ones-

  1. How about brochures? - Brochures will always be one of the best promotional media when it comes to non-techno savvy population. Benefits of telehealth can be printed using regional language with no medical jargons which can help in promoting this platform.
  2. Promotions on social media. When it comes to digitally savvy population, there is no other option than marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc. there will not be any second opinion on this!
  3. Own website. Hospitals using telehealth technology have to have their own Website which is attractive and easily accessible, every time! Homepage with some catchy messages and infographics promoting telehealth would be beneficial. New updates and offerings regarding Telehealth services should be immediately displayed on the website to keep patients engaged.Hospitals can even advertise their success stories with patients. Patients always crave content related to services such as diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and nutrition. Short and simple videos can be made to promote this content and to increase incidences of being in search results. So, creating a rich and patient-oriented content will always be helpful.
  4. FAQ section for the Website. Every Website has its FAQ section but are those questions answered on time? Sometimes the credibility of an amazingly designed website is lost if the website is not actively answering the questions by patients. This can be considered while planning the promotional activities. A talented pool of IT professionals is a must to handle all these operations in the hospital management.
  5. Collection of reviews and feedback of patients. Ratings offered to a particular service is always the primary search done by many patients while searching for any service. Reviews and feedback from patients will be helpful for prospective patients to make the decisions.
  6. Relatively Inexpensive application-Launching some simple mobile applications in which E-appointments can be fixed, physical examination records can be shared, e-prescriptions can be achieved, etc could be really helpful to engage patients with the service. And there are more chances of patients coming back to the same service where there is ease in processing.
  7. Right information to build trust – Being honest with the profession we are doing will always make a positive and trustworthy impact on consumers (here patients) we are serving. While filling the website with all those attractive promotions, hospitals should also mention the health conditions for which physical visit to hospital is obligatory.

Vaccination of children, monitoring child growth after birth, serious injury, severe chest pain or a drug overdose, etc. are some of the cases for which the doctor needs to lay hands on a patient. Mentioning all such things shows affectionate behaviour of physicians toward patients and also builds trust.

In camera reality

Apollo Telehealth Services (ATHS) is the largest telemedicine network in South Asia generated by Apollo Hospitals providing a number of services to increase the access of patients toward healthcare. This network has 24*7 medical response centres consisting of physicians which are solely dedicated to Telehealth services of Apollo hospitals.

Teleclinics established by ATHS are equipped with all the required hardware and medicinal devices for the better access of patients to healthcare even in rural areas. They are currently using real-time techniques, store and forward, remote monitoring techniques to run this platform via video-conferencing, emails, wireless tools, etc.

Tele-radiology services of ATHS are transmitting X-ray images, CTs, MRIs etc. to the Apollo hospital specialists and a number of patients are getting realtime consultation and diagnosis.

Cardiologists at Apollo hospitals are providing solutions to remote medical care providers based on transmitted ECGs to them. They have multiple ECG reading centres at various locations accompanied with monitory services.

Tele-emergency care enabling the emergency care specialists of Apollo hospitals to stabilise and monitor the patients in remote hospitals. And in the space of condition management, Apollo’s remote management programs provide some tools and automated care plans in the form of mobile apps or devices related to particular conditions such as diabetes, heart disorders, highrisk pregnancy, etc.

Doc On Call at ATHS enables hospital’s IT systems to share patient’s information such as EMRs, PACS, LIS, RIS and non-clinical information like staff scheduling, nurse assignment, and ADT systems, etc. leading to establishment of connectivity between a large ecosystem of hospital specialists and patients.

Along with all this services, Tele-ICU, Tele-ophthalmology, tele-audiology, psychiatric counselling, chronic disease management, motherhood care, teleeducation, etc are also some of the demanding services given by ATHS of Apollo hospitals making good moves in Tele-health sector of hospitals.

In addition to all these, if we have a look at the website and marketing strategies employed by Apollo hospitals to promote their telehealth services, they are just amazing!

Telehealth and technology related to it are the practice changing initiatives taken by many hospitals in 2020. It is a reality and every hospital needs to accept and adopt it. Old hospital practice models will no longer remain superior. Years coming ahead are already showing the clear picture of technologybased services in every part of industry, healthcare is not an exception, hospital managements have to be ready to absorb and emit all these changes efficiently and wisely.

References:

1. Sahar Qazi, Khushnuma Tanveer, Khaled Elbahnasy, Khalid Raza_ From Telediagnosis to Teletreatment: The Role of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in Tele-Based Healthcare_https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332874836 _From_Telediagnosis_to_Teletreatment_The_Role_of_Computational_Biology_and_Bioinformatics_in_Tele-Based_Healthcare_accessed on 21.12.2020

2. Deloitte report _accessed on 21.12.2020

3. Teresa Iafolla_7 Steps To Educating Patients About Telehealth_https://blog.evisit.com/virtual-care-blog/7-steps-educating-patients-telehealth_accessed on 23.12.2020

4. Kayla Matthews_ 6 Telemedicine Predictions For 2020_https://www.healthitoutcomes.com/doc/telemedicine-predictions-for-0001_accessed on 23.12.2020

5. https://www.fullmedia.com/10-marketing-ideas-if-you-are-launching-telemedicine-at-your-practice_accessed on 23.12.2020

6. https://www.apollotelehealth.com/_accessed on 30.12.2020

--Issue 51--

Author Bio

R B Smarta

R B Smarta - Founder and Managing Director of Interlink Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. Being a thought leader in Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical and wellness industry, he has been contributing globally through Interlink Consultancy and building business performance of his clients for 33 years. Having a Master's degree (M.Sc.) in Organic Chemistry in Drugs, MMS in Marketing, PhD in Management, and FRSA (Fellow of Royal Society of Arts) London, he is-pursuing his passion of converting science to Business. Besides being a consultant, he has been teaching at IIM, prestigious management institutes, Pharmacy College, Pharmacists Associations, guiding PhD students and written as many as 7 Books on Management, Pharma, Nutra, Foods domain, and many articles in prestigious journals/magazines.

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