When you first think of virtual care or telemedicine, you might imagine a doctor on the other end of a laptop advising you on how to treat any number of minor ailments. You can show your clinician your rash on video, tell them about your symptoms, and have them prescribe your medicine from the comfort of your home—or workplace, a friend’s house—wherever you are.  

Telemedicine represents a whole new level of convenience, accessibility, and value. But virtual care is actually so much more than that. It is a fundamental shift in the way healthcare is delivered. And it’s not necessarily limited to minor or trivial conditions. In fact, it’s not necessarily limited to a sick visit at all.  

If the COVID-19 pandemic had one enduring impact on healthcare, it was its ability to prove the viability of telemedicine models in various use cases and contexts as we remained safely at home for an extended period of time. The pandemic forced us to pivot how we do normal life, and that certainly included how we do medicine.  

Unsurprisingly, every age group was affected by the pandemic and took advantage of telemedicine in increased numbers. In fact, the two age groups that had the steepest increase in the use of telemedicine were aged 13-18 and those 46 and older. Before the pandemic, those 13-18 had a telemedicine usage rate of three per 10,000 and after the pandemic, 103.2 per 10,000. For individuals 46 and older, the reported usage rate totaled 2.8 per 10,000 pre-pandemic and 121.4 per 10,000 post-pandemic.  

The necessity of safety accelerated the pace of change. But now that this pandemic is waning, what’s next? What is the future of telehealth? What about virtual care? And more specifically, how is this impacting cardiology?  

Care in a post-pandemic world 

The stats above say it all. There was a need, demand increased, and a whole new way of interacting with your doctor was unleashed…and worked.  

The standardization of virtual care models had sweeping implications. For example, individuals who may not have had quality healthcare readily accessible showed a significant increase in telemedicine usage, as did those in poverty. Those living below the poverty line showed a telemedicine usage rate of 2.7 out of 10,000 individuals before the pandemic, a number that increased to 83.5 after the pandemic.  

Additionally, there have been significantly more appointments conducted via telemedicine now versus before COVID-19. In a study of 398 healthcare professionals, it was reported that only 2% of appointments took place via telemedicine before the spread of COVID-19. Today, that number is 61%. Looking ahead, it is predicted that up to one in five appointments will take place remotely.  

Most interestingly, it appears that telemedicine has increased patients’ willingness to seek care. 40% of respondents in one study reported that they are more likely to visit a doctor post-pandemic. Could this be due, in part, to the convenience and accessibility that telemedicine provides?  

Virtual care vs. telemedicine 

Telemedicine has become a familiar term in the everyday person’s health vernacular, but what about virtual care? At first thought, these terms may sound interchangeable, but they actually refer to two related but different ways healthcare professionals can engage with their patients

Telemedicine is specifically treating a patient without seeing them in person—often via video, audio, or instant messaging. Healthcare providers can offer medical advice and diagnose their patients’ conditions remotely.  

On the other hand, virtual care refers more broadly to the ways in which providers engage with their patients. Beyond the typical telemedicine interaction, virtual care also encompasses a variety of diverse care delivery models—including monitoring vitals from afar, assessing progress post-surgery, recording patient symptoms and experiences, responding to questions without a pre-scheduled meeting, and prescribing treatments.  

Where telemedicine’s primary focus is on convenience, virtual care is focused on bringing the richness of healthcare to patients in a variety of settings, and harnessing technology to accelerate time to diagnosis and improve outcomes. While the pandemic was an accelerator of this shift, cardiology was actually an early luminary in first demonstrating the value and potential of virtual models.  

Back to the future for cardiology 

So, what’s next for virtual care? As providers navigate the new virtual care reality, cardiology is being called upon yet again to lead the way. What began as remote patient monitoring has been replaced by a powerful new model for virtual telemetry that enables high-integrity patient monitoring for virtually any clinical use case—from preventive care to advanced hospital-to-home scenarios. Let’s take a closer look at the three key tenets of virtual telemetry, and how they will shape the future of virtual care. 

Tenet 1: Any level of acuity 

Historically, acuity has been a limiting factor for virtual care. Even now, patients typically use virtual interactions for simple or benign conditions. And yet, revolutionary virtual telemetry solutions can now support high acuity applications, delivering data for even the most complex cardiac conditions. As RPM inches ever-closer to hospital-grade monitoring, it is painting a dynamic picture of what the future of virtual care could look like.  

Tenet 2: Anywhere virtual care is delivered  

In the early days of virtual care, place still played an important role. Most virtual care interactions took place in the comfort of a patient’s home, where the internet connection was strong, and a desktop or laptop was present. Virtual telemetry challenges this model by expanding beyond the four walls of the home, enabling RPM anywhere the patient goes. No Wi-Fi available? No problem. With Wi-Fi to Bluetooth bridges, virtual telemetry offers total continuity—never skipping a beat.  

Tenet 3: Anytime access to high integrity data   

Data is at the core of virtual care. Without high integrity RPM data, providers can never achieve the quality of observation outside the office that they can achieve inside the office. Moreover, virtual care cannot afford to sacrifice timeliness. Providers need reliable and secure access to patient data in near real time—no exceptions.  

Once again, virtual telemetry is proving this can be done. In fact, virtual telemetry enables doctors to speed time to diagnosis and eliminate latency by instantly transmitting the highest quality patient data in real time. As virtual care models continue to mature, this vision for patient data access will be integral to realizing their full potential. 

So, where do you go from here? A good place to start is our platform page, where you can get to know the MoMe ARC Platform—the only virtual telemetry platform on the market to support the three key tenets of virtual care. Through one, device-agnostic MoMe Gateway, the MoMe ARC Platform supports the full spectrum of cardiac complexity with high-fidelity data capture from anywhere a patient goes. Most importantly, this data is interpreted with the assistance of AI and securely delivered to providers who can harness it to improve patient wellbeing.  

Sounds too good to be true? We’d love to tell you more. Contact InfoBionic to speak with a member of our team today.