Telemedicine in The Wake of COVID-19: An Interview with Adnan Lawai

The pandemic has managed to make a lot of changes in the way traditional medicine operates today. If you think it’s been a bed of roses, because hospitals should be the last places to go bankrupt in such a scenario, then you’re right. But let’s just say the bed of roses has its equal share of thorns. 

In this interview, watch as Adnan Lawai, Founder and CEO, Folio3, talks about the future of digital healthcare in the aftermath of the novel Coronavirus 2019. The interview taken by Karolina Chachulska, Director at Infoedge LLC, unfolds the latest healthcare trends, the savior called telemedicine and the challenges faced when adopting technology especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the ERs ran out of room trying to accommodate the panicked public, the dermatologists and the dentists had to take a backseat. Elective and even non-elective but non-critical surgeries got indefinitely postponed. Hospitals actually lost billions of dollars. Because people stopped going and started weighing the need to go versus the probability of contracting the virus. 

Telemedicine to the Rescue

This is where telemedicine stepped up. Needless to say, the pandemic has been a power boost in the field of telemedicine solutions as more and more people chose to stay home and not risk going to hospitals to get a checkup. What seemed like a tech-savvy solution for only a limited niche became a need for the masses. Telemedicine is not just a trending digital health topic, the change is permanent and it’s here to stay even after the pandemic dies out. 

Innovative telemedicine solutions are taking over the need for frequent visits to the doctor because the solutions involve hardware devices and apps that help patients manage long term illnesses. Instead of a physical doctor having to diagnose the condition, different algorithms diagnose the patient and let them know the next step. In the circumstance where understanding the condition is beyond the ability of the algorithm, a doctor is instantly contacted so that he or she can rectify the situation at hand. 

“Text messages are the easiest way of communicating with people, you know, everybody, almost everybody, knows how to deal with that, and so you know they receive, let’s say a weekly text message. Hey, how are you doing? How are your vitals? What was your blood pressure/blood sugar? Etc. They respond, right, and then an algorithm essentially, creates a response to that…” 

~ Adnan Lawai, CEO, Folio3.

Patient Experience Upgraded

You may be wondering how Telemedicine has managed to upgrade patient experience with their healthcare. Healthcare has gotten increasingly expensive and people have started to get shocked at their medical bills and this is especially true for 2019. People have started to avoid basic healthcare because of not being able to afford it. 

“So even apart from COVID just think about it, going ten times to this clinic maybe half an hour away versus being able to do seven or eight of those visits online and the staff being able to just kind of handle everything. It saves tons of time and it makes a lot of sense and because of COVID, you know the silver lining of COVID is these technologies are coming to the fore and the cost savings that they’re putting in place. I think this will be a permanent feature of the healthcare system going forward.”

~ Adnan Lawai, CEO, Folio3.

Telemedicine is a lot more cheaper for the patients because it cuts so many costs for the hospital or facility. Also, the patient has a lot fewer running costs because he doesn’t have to pay a visit to the clinic ever too often. Also, some telemedicine solutions for chronic care patients are such that the patient doesn’t have to go to the hospital at all. These patients can then use those algorithm based devices that tell them how to take the next step and what medicine to take when the need arises. 

Challenges

Like every solution, telemedicine does have its challenges that it may have to overcome in order to become the primary choice of healthcare in the future. 

  • Awareness: If the general public isn’t aware that such a solution exists and is a better alternative to sitting at home and avoiding hospitals, it won’t matter. The awareness that such solutions exist is essential to its success. This is why marketing is extremely important so that people grow aware and get ready to accept these solutions and trust them.
  • Cost of Innovation and Technology: The cost of implementing the technology that facilitates telemedicine and translates into the hardware and software it comprises of is not cheap. But then compared to the reduction in cost because of reduced ER visits, less physical space needed, and reductions in bills and staff salaries, there can hardly be a comparison. 
  • Payment and Insurance Reimbursement: This is an issue for both the service provider as well as the consumer. First of all, even payment is an issue because there are some people who are still not comfortable paying online. Then comes the issue of insurance. The coverage of telemedicine is not covered in most insurance policies and even if it were, there are several complications. Insurance organizations are more wary of giving reimbursement for online checkups because they know that costs will always be higher.
  • Lack of Technical Know-how for Patients: There are still people who aren’t used to the online way of doing things and they will take a longer time to get used to something like telemedicine. 
  • Integration: This is a very solvable challenge if the telemedicine solutions decide to use standards such as HL7 so that patient records may be synchronized and updated. 
  • Privacy Breach: There is always a chance of confidential patient data getting in the wrong hands or getting out. Strong firewalls and encryptions can be used to prevent this.
  • Wrong Diagnoses: Since the patient is not physically present in front of the doctor and the doctor is not able to physically examine, there remains a chance of a wrong diagnosis taking place. 

However, as you probably realize, all these challenges cause a delay but they can be overcome. With healthcare constantly evolving and technology on a steep upward trend, telemedicine will only get better with time. 

“I think these are the technologies of the future. These are the technologies that

will deliver those big big cost savings and honestly just much better level of service right to the patient and to the to the hospital…”

Adnan Lawai, CEO, Folio3.