Yep, it needs a “the” to qualify the year that was 2020. I for one, saw immense hope amongst the doom and gloom. To me healthcare is about access and enabling equitable approaches to those most in need. We can have the best doctors and resources but if they don’t reach those most in need and when they need them it’s all to no avail. The answer to me in one word is Telehealth, an approach accelerated in this year as was aptly summarized by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya.
The benefits are obvious when seen in the context of a contagious pandemic yet the changes brought in will last a lifetime. With the growth in telecommunications infrastructure and smart devices we can begin to see the impact of buzzwords like IoT, AI and ML. Why would an at-risk pregnant lady from a rural location ever want to trek to the the far away clinic if she can get expert opinion through a portable device in the hands of her trusted mid-wife? Extend this to a congested city in any corner of the world and I for one would prefer a consult with my trusted doctor instead of taking time off work, wading through traffic, waiting and still getting a few minutes to talk, if there is no last minute emergency.
The simplicity of Telehealth in avoiding travel, flexibility of scheduling, democratizing access will make the technology investment worthwhile. This is of course not as simple as it sounds, privacy, security and reliability are on top of mind to develop trust. Similarly there is no substitute for human to human contact in some situations. However, as the world around us gets used to immersive communication, starting with a simple video call and all the way to AR – VR, there are so many Telehealth possibilities which give me hope across clinical consultation, specialist training, prevention, diagnosis and all the way to intervention and recovery.