Telehealth Is Trending

Remote monitoring and other forms of "telehealth" are increasingly shown to be effective.


Several recent studies reveal progress and greater interest in telehealth, according to reports. With patients suffering from HIV and depression, virtual assistance or remote monitoring shows promise as an element of a treatment strategy.

Recently, the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona revealed the data from a telemedicine program it called "Hospital VIHrtual" ("VIH" is the Spanish acronym for HIV). Over five years, the Barcelona team has remotely looked after 200 patients with HIV, according to a release. Crucially, the results obtained via the telehealth program were just as good as those from traditional hospital visits. And obviously, it's less costly, both in terms of time and money, for doctors and patients alike.

Of course, you can't administer a drug over an Ethernet cable. The "Hospital VIHrtual" consisted of consultations and medical management, and also led to a social network of sorts—a "virtual community" with discussion forums and blogs.

What proved true for HIV patients also appears to be true for mental health patients, according to the Group Health Research Institute, a "Seattle-based, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system." A randomized trial found that online messaging worked well for follow-up care to those suffering from depression. The results will appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. In fact, after five months, the patients receiving online care management were, "significantly more likely to feel less depressed, take their antidepressant medication as prescribed, and be 'very satisfied' with their treatment for depression," according to a release. "We worried that patients might need live voice contact in real time to be understood and feel supported," Dr. Gregory Simon said in the release. "But this online care management helped these patients, even though they never met the trained psychiatric nurse in person or talked with her on the phone. And because she spent only one hour per patient to deliver this intervention, it promises to make high-quality depression care more affordable."

In other recent telehealth news, Obstetricians & Gynecologists RRG of America, Inc., an insurance company, today announced that it was offering free postpartum depression tests via telephone. And the Scottish government has just announced it plans to spend 10 million pounds to transfer telehealth technology—that is, to bring existing technology into more patients' homes. The program is expected to reach 10,000 people.

As most of the reports note, the telehealth trend doesn't mean computers will be replacing old-fashioned visits to the doctor, though—merely complementing them.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user wonderlane]

Add New Comment


  • Scott Zimmerman

    I completely agree that remote monitoring and other telehealth trends are becoming more effective in advancing patient care. At TeleVox, we have been working with medical practices all over the country for a number of years to incorporate Engagement Communications technology into patient care.

    Engagement Communications utilizes advances in communications technology, such as voice messaging, SMS text messaging, e-mail, social media and web portals, to help medical practices tailor the type of information their patients receive, as well as when and how they receive it.
    These communications create many points of engagement with a patient rather than just a simple connection. A connection might inform a patient, but it doesn’t necessarily motivate them to take action. Create engagement points and the path is opened up for activation – or in this case, taking a greater, more informed role in their health care.

    For example, Engagement Communications allow patients with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure to receive a series of text message reminders to renew their prescriptions. Or, a patient struggling to quit smoking could be encouraged to enroll in a smoking cessation program or purchase nicotine patches and gum.

    These outgoing messages can be scaled to hundreds or even thousands, but each is delivered and experienced in a tailored, personalized manner and offers transformational benefits in overall health outcomes.

    Imagine the increased likelihood of treatment compliance if automated alerts were sent notifying both the physician and a caregiver when an early stage Alzheimer’s sufferer doesn’t text or call in from a remote location to confirm they have taken their medication. Or if a physician was able to find out at a moment’s notice the level of proactive and preventive steps patients are making in their own healthcare and then had the ability to share tailored one-to-one marketing messages and campaigns in an instant to increase their patient support; campaigns which enable patients to respond and engage in the dialogue.

    By effectively engaging in a dialogue in which information and concerns can be shared, the doctor is better able to assess the situation, while the patient is made to take a more active role in the course of treatment, leading to a more cost-effective and satisfying experience for everyone involved.

    Thank you for the post.

    Scott Zimmerman, President of