April 06, 2021 at 07:11PM

According to an estimate by Grand View Research, the telehealth market is expected to experience a 22.4 percent compound annual growth rate from now until 2028. Considering that the current global telemedicine market size was estimated at almost $56 billion in 2020, that’s a significant amount of investment dollars that will be pouring into the sector. The lure of such a potentially lucrative market is drawing many players to the telemedicine field — both startups and long-established businesses. The latest in that second category is telecom giant Verizon, which on Monday (April 5) announced its new telemedicine platform, BlueJeans Telehealth.

The announcement follows Verizon’s launch of a trial run of BlueJeans video conferencing (which the company bought in May 2020 for $500 million) for use in a range of telehealth and meeting functions. Several medical-related institutions took part in the pilot, including the University of Louisville and Amicus Therapeutics.

In addition to facilitating secure, HIPAA-compliant, remote doctor/patient visits, the newly launched BlueJeans Telehealth will allow patients to use their pre-visit time to complete questionnaires in advance. It will also provide a library functionality in which healthcare providers can direct patients to pertinent reading materials. The app is easily downloadable to desktops or mobile devices.

From the provider side, Verizon says there will be workflow efficiencies as the telehealth visit and all notes will automatically become incorporated into patients’ electronic health record workflows.

“While the use of telemedicine has been steadily growing for some time now, the pandemic has accelerated telehealth adoption and changed the conversation around what patient care will look like moving forward,” said Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business in a statement. “We worked closely with an advisory board of health system clinicians and healthcare decision-makers to build BlueJeans Telehealth specifically to address the most pressing needs for a virtual-first telehealth offering — from ease of experience to enhanced security. Today’s launch is just the beginning for Verizon in what we see as the future of telehealth, especially when you consider the innovation that will come from 5G mobility, broadband and cloud capabilities.”

Internet Of Medical Things

That last statement was echoed by Robert Fine, executive director of the International Virtual Reality and Healthcare Association (IVRHA), in a blog post on Verizon’s site. Fine said he believes that linking the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) to burgeoning 5G networks will have a significant impact on both length of stay and costs in medical facilities and care at home. Because 5G will significantly speed up data transfer times, it could, for example, facilitate the use of smartwatch-like bracelets that could convey vital signs to healthcare professionals.

“Just as a smartwatch adds new features every year, the IoMT devices within the hospital could become more sophisticated over time,” Fine said. “Beyond basic vital signs, that bracelet might monitor your oxygen level, take an electrocardiogram automatically, and alert the nurses if you’ve fallen. Your bracelet could become a nurse’s assistant to do basic tests and keep a close eye on you.” Such technology could function in a hospital or home setting, he said.

Fine points to a report by the World Health Organization predicting there will be a shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030 and says that such technological advancements could free up valuable time from those already working in the field to cover the staffing gap.

“The benefits of digitizing healthcare practices have long been discussed on the clinical side as a way to make care more convenient and efficient for patients, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that we truly realized the way it could transform the patient-physician relationship,” said Dr. Scott Boden of Emory Healthcare in a statement about Verizon’s news. “The ability to offer virtual visits using tools like BlueJeans during this challenging time is not only helping to keep patients and practitioners like myself safe, it’s also providing a level of care that was previously missing. As we continue looking for new ways to tap into technology to drive better outcomes for our patients, it’s this personalization of care that will shape the future of healthcare.”


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