Kuk is the cofounder of ZEGOCLOUD, a global cloud communication service provider of real-time audio and video communication APIs and SDKs.
As technology continues to evolve, so does its impact on the healthcare industry. Real-time communication (RTC), namely audio or video remote communication technologies in the general public’s conventional understanding, has emerged as a transformative force in healthcare, enabling remote access to medical services and bridging gaps in healthcare access. With the rise of telehealth and the increasing demand for accessible and timely healthcare services, RTC technology has become essential in addressing industry expectations.
Telehealth apps have become a significant source of global trade, and the global telehealth industry has grown exponentially during Covid-19 times. The global pandemic tested healthcare systems worldwide as they attempted to maintain services remotely.
Telemedicine applications in the U.S. experienced substantial growth, with a 35% increase from 11% in 2019 to 46% in 2020, according to a McKinsey & Company analysis. In 2020, the telehealth market had a worth of $61.40 billion globally, and it is projected to achieve a value of $559.52 billion by 2028, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights.
Capital investments have been a significant growth driver in the telehealth industry as companies and investors seek to capitalize on its potential. A Hampleton Partners’ Healthtech M&A Market Report from 2022 showed that telehealth investment totaled $57.2 billion in 2021, up 79% from 2020.
Venture capitalists are expanding their investments into telehealth apps that use AI-based healthcare decision-making tools and digital medications. The investor’s main areas of interest are:
• Mental health and well-being.
• Medical imaging and AI-based diagnostic software.
• Clinical trials technology.
The demand for telehealth services is expected to keep increasing gradually, making RTC technology critical in addressing industry expectations.
Real-Time Communication Technology In Telehealth
The gap between traditional healthcare and telehealth primarily concerns accessibility and convenience. Telehealth addresses the challenges by allowing patients to receive medical care remotely through video conferencing, the most commonly used RTC technology in telehealth apps. Amwell and Teladoc are popular telehealth providers that offer real-time video visits with licensed doctors and therapists.
Remote monitoring is also becoming popular, utilizing real-time data transmission technologies for doctors to monitor and assess patients. This use scenario allows for real-time diagnosis, prompt action, and time-saving. HealthTap, TytoCare and Eko are all players in this category. HealthTap offers online consultations with licensed doctors and a health library, and TytoCare provides remote examination capabilities. Eko offers a digital stethoscope for real-time heart sound analysis.
Advantages Of Telehealth
Access to healthcare services in underprivileged and rural areas is one of the most significant advantages of telemedicine. Patients can communicate with healthcare practitioners via telehealth apps using RTC technology, regardless of location, which reduces transit expenses and waiting times. The tech makes healthcare more accessible and convenient for patients who would otherwise face barriers to healthcare access.
Telehealth apps have been found to improve patient engagement by offering interactive tools, personalized treatment plans and educational materials. Patients are motivated to participate actively in their healthcare experience, leading to better health outcomes than in traditional healthcare, where patients are often passive care recipients.
In addition, telehealth can reduce healthcare costs for patients and healthcare providers. It can lower overhead expenditures and lead to more effective resource utilization for healthcare practitioners in both public and private settings. It makes the healthcare system more efficient and sustainable, benefiting patients and providers.
Leverage RTC For Innovative Healthcare Solutions
Telehealth applications and services are constantly advancing to keep up with the growing use of RTC technologies. These technologies include:
• Artificial intelligence through chatbots, speech recognition and automated health warnings.
• Augmented, virtual and mixed reality functionalities for remote diagnosis and medical education.
• Remote physical therapy programs that use video conferencing and motion sensors to guide patients through exercises and track their progress.
• Virtual reality therapy for patients with mental health conditions, such as PTSD or anxiety disorder.
These technologies allow developers and RTC solution vendors to create innovative, user-friendly telehealth apps that leverage real-time interaction technologies. However, some challenges need to be addressed in this rapidly growing industry.
Telehealth services deal with significant volumes of sensitive data, making security, privacy and app safety the first concern. Telehealth reimbursement policies and technological impediments are other challenges. Some individuals, like older people, may need help with internet access, device compatibility or user interface difficulties. Technical issues like bandwidth restrictions and network latency impact the quality of audio and video transmission, affecting face-to-face interaction between physicians and patients over time.
The telehealth industry has exciting prospects, but opportunities come alongside significant challenges. Although healthcare organizations have many legal requirements, these challenges apply mainly to telemedicine software and services developers who must be well on their way to a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant development environment. Furthermore, the technical aspects must thrive for excellent quality services. And it is mainly in this particular area that RTC solution providers and vendors compete fiercely. Their solutions ultimately influence the success of telehealth apps and services.
The telehealth industry presents exciting prospects as it continues to expand and RTC technologies become increasingly important for business and technical advancement. However, significant challenges remain within the sector. While healthcare organizations have many legal requirements, telemedicine software and service developers must ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations. Technical aspects must also thrive for high-quality services, and RTC solution providers and vendors compete fiercely in this area. The success of telehealth apps and services ultimately depends on the quality of their solutions. Therefore, selecting a good provider is crucial for healthcare providers and patients.