Continuing our conversations with front line physicians and experts in Telehealth offerings, we recently spoke with Dr. Ted Palen, Board certified Internist and Board certified in Clinical Informatics. Dr. Palen shared with us his thoughts on the opportunity to provide chronic disease management virtually, the importance of capturing a variety of patient generated health data elements and how to effectively bring that data back to physicians in meaningful and actionable dashboards. Check out more of Dr. Palen’s insights in the full interview below.
C3LX: Dr. Palen, thanks for sharing your insights with us! First question is related to the massive expansion of Telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s too bad that it took a crisis to expand telehealth, but overnight the service went from a nice-to-have convenience to an absolute must have. What have you seen in the current telehealth offerings and what is still needed to allow them to be more robust than they currently are?
Dr. Palen: This is an opportunity to do a lot more virtual disease management. It doesn’t just become the tyranny of the urgent but becomes more normalized to provide chronic care management. For example, diabetics can upload data, and we get the ability to get remote monitoring going based on what they are uploading. I envision a lot more of that should be happening as we pass the pandemic phase of this thing and see the benefit of being able to use virtual care options. So many conditions can benefit from this. We could really dovetail virtual care much more deliberately with traditional care.
C3LX: What is needed, then, from the technology? What are some other types of tracking you as a physician would want to see come from this?
Dr. Palen: Maybe this is a chance to partner with tech or cell phone companies – medical attachment kit that would come with your smartphone. You could get a digital audio stethoscope, glucometer, digital thermometer, a digital scale, and fitness tracker. You’d have the option of buying a home remote monitoring digital package with your smartphone so you would now have the ability at home to send a picture of your child’s ear, track heart rate, monitor activity and diet, etc. You can then integrate with the smartphone to send data remotely to your healthcare provider. I’ve always thought that would be a cool idea for people to have in their own home.
C3LX: I like that thought of providing patients remote monitoring kits at home! As far as getting this Patient Generated Health Data back to the provider in a meaningful way, what does that look like to you?
Dr. Palen: I think there is an opportunity there for Digital Health companies to provide a robust dashboard as a way to have patient information available to a doctor who doesn’t know your health history or hasn’t seen you in a while. If you have a patient and all you have is the information, they’re telling you, you’re practicing medicine in the dark. Whereas on the other hand, if a patient is logging information from an App and other remote monitoring data is flowing in passively, you as the doctor can see so much more and treat them so much more accurately. You also need some AI interface between the patient and the connected devices and the clinician, because the clinician doesn’t have the time to look at every single data point that’s coming in. This will help with good visualization and alerting with trends that are going on and which patients need immediate attention versus in a day or two. You can’t manage a million data points for 3,000 different patients on your own.
C3LX: Final question, Dr. Palen. An easy one! What do you think will be the biggest impact of COVID on healthcare delivery?
Dr. Palen: Virtual care is here to stay. But barriers with regulations and reimbursement issues and payment barriers still exist, but after the pandemic, the dominoes are going to get pushed and fall in place. And it won’t be a complete switch to virtual care, but there will be an increase in it, and a lot more of virtual care in tandem with in-person visits, dovetailed and integrated better with traditional care.