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]

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.