Into the Future: Virtual Care Technology in 2050

In the future, your doctor will shower with you! Well, not exactly. But here’s what one telemedicine expert has to say about the coming evolution of remote care.

By Bill Siwicki May 10, 2021 11:56 AM

Miles Romney, cofounder and chief technology officer at telehealth company eVisit, paints a vivid, sci-fi-seeming picture of what virtual care will look like in the year 2050. 

He starts by describing a hypothetical person’s morning shower.

The shower stall will be outfitted with a high-tech system, says Romney. Aided by an ocular or neurological implant interface, the system takes a full-body CT scan, while myriad instruments gently check various personal health metrics and vitals, cataloging and sending those details to a care team.

The person’s daily data is analyzed in real time by artificial intelligence and validated by providers. A transdermal infuser then delivers a personalized cocktail of exactly what’s needed – vitamins, relaxants, pain relievers, beta blockers, anxiolytics, TNF inhibitors. The shower begins and as hot water hits, one already feels the positive effects.

Romney spoke with Healthcare IT News about what he sees as the future of telehealth – when virtual care will no longer be virtual care, it will just be care.

Q: Before we head into the future, what is happening today in telehealth where you see inklings of changes that help you see what is to come?

A: I see three primary indicators of change today – what I call “innovation enthusiasm”: increased use of telehealth, driven predominantly by the pandemic; consumerization of healthcare; and tech tool fatigue.

That telehealth is happening at all, and that its upward inflection has been so pronounced over the last 14 months, is one of the biggest indications of changes to come. It signals a clear and present motivation on the part of health systems to embrace new ways of managing the very core of their services: the interaction of a patient with a healthcare provider. This is the “wedge in the door” that will allow for the adoption of so many other tech-enabled efficiencies.

Closely related to telehealth adoption over these last few years, and the adoption of other consumer-facing health technologies, has been the transition of “patients” to “consumers” – what the industry is calling the “consumerization of healthcare.”

This is an explicit acknowledgment that people now have a choice in where they go for healthcare, and that they demand not only successful outcomes, but also high-quality experiences. As consumer voices strengthen, and this sense of competition increases, the eagerness on the part of health systems and insurance payers to adopt new tools and technologies will increase in lockstep.

They have two very compelling reasons to do so – to increase patient outcomes and to keep patients within their networks, protecting and increasing their own margins.

Another very strong sign of innovation enthusiasm is what we call “tool fatigue.” This may sound counterintuitive at first blush. But consider that the only way a purchaser can grow tired of buying too many new tools is by actually buying too many new tools. There is a hunger for advancements not only in treatments, but also for integrated care paths, patient management, provider efficiency, data portability, security and privacy, in addition to so many other categories.

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