The Next Evolution Of Remote Care
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The Next Evolution Of Remote Care

Keith Boettiger, President, Abbott [Nyse:Abt]

Keith Boettiger, President, Abbott [Nyse:Abt]

Telehealth has gained greater importance as COVID-19 created barriers to care, making technology essential for nearly all healthcare professionals who want to monitor and treat patients. As people continue to adapt and make remote visits the norm, the challenging next step will be to elevate the experience to better serve the needs of patients who require more than a prescription, referral or touch base with their physician.

The next evolution of remote care will be to a true virtual care platform in which physicians can use digital technologies to administer care and monitor the progress virtually. Patients with chronic conditions, in particular, would benefit from this kind of advancement.

While this kind of technology may seem only aspirational, in reality, investments in R&D over the past decade coupled with enhanced connectivity have led to advanced virtual care solutions that are already offering new hope to the nearly 60 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain and certain movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Personalized, patient-centric therapies that fit into the patient’s life rather than requiring them to adjust to the technology have already changed the way these conditions are managed. Now, advancements in neuromodulation, an essential therapy that works by delivering electrical treatment directly to a targeted area to alter nerve activity, are taking the concept a step further and allowing patients to receive care beyond clinic walls.

For the first time, patients have the ability to communicate with their physician through remote technology and also receive adjustments to the settings on their neuromodulation devices anytime and anywhere as long as a cellular or Wi-Fi connection is available. Advancements in battery life, frequency and amplification, stimulation targets and connectivity options have also helped to create a more seamless experience for both patient and provider.

The development of virtual care for chronic pain and movement disorder patients came about as a solution to improve access to care, a need apparent long before COVID-19. Like many people with chronic conditions, this community of patients often has a hard time getting to doctor’s appointments, especially if they are experiencing a flare in pain or are having trouble managing their symptoms. Patients with movement disorders face added hurdles because they must be off their medication overnight to reach baseline to determine the next course of treatment, which can make travel difficult. And people living with movement disorders have traditionally traveled over 150 miles on average every two to three months to receive treatment from a specialist.

The next evolution of remote care will be to a true virtual care platform in which physicians can use digital technologies to administer care and monitor the progress virtually

The goal now will be to continue to advance virtual care technology to other segments of care, especially in areas where patients are more likely to delay or forego much-needed care because of access barriers. If we can continue to develop true virtual care solutions, we may be able to keep some chronic conditions from progressing to the point that they become urgent health issues.

Even as we work to eradicate COVID-19, issues with access to care will persist. However, government policies have made it possible for more people to take advantage of temporary reimbursement until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The success of this temporary policy will hopefully encourage payors and policymakers to fully adapt to this approach to further enhance the care continuum.

Keith Boettiger is vice president of Abbott’s neuromodulation business and has more than 15 years of experience in the dynamically changing neuromodulation industry.

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