Whoever Controls the Remote May Win with Telehealth

Whoever Controls the Remote May Win with Telehealth. Elderly woman at home in wheelchair speaking with doctor through her television.

Telemedicine may get a new platform from what to many is an old friend — the television — to connect with elderly patients and those with chronic diseases. CNBC recently reported that Cisco is early in the development of a device that sits atop TVs and integrates with telemedicine provider American Well’s technology.

Users would be able to connect with one of American Well’s doctors and its network of hospitals via a live video feed. Aside from the obvious convenience factor, the companies believe that using TV to connect patients with caregivers could reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency department and help elderly patients remain independent for longer in their homes.

This is the latest in a line of moves by technology companies to find new ways to monitor patients remotely, something government and commercial payers are supporting. For example, Quil Health, the joint venture between Comcast and Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia, is exploring ways to provide care support and health-related content using their combined resources.

MedCity News reports that Quil is developing a hybrid smartphone and TV-based platform that can support patients as they prepare for and recover from procedures like joint or hip surgery. The technology also will allow patients to upload images from home to apprise doctors of their conditions and inform care plans.

Comcast is also working on an in-home device to track people’s health. An anonymous source told CNBC in May that the device will monitor basic health metrics using ambient sensors, with a focus on whether someone is making frequent trips to the bathroom or spending more time than usual in bed. Comcast will begin pilot-testing the device this year, with plans to release it commercially in 2020. The company is also developing tools to detect falls, a common problem for many seniors.

Advances like these appear to be driven largely by regulatory moves to expand the options for seniors to access care. CMS, for instance, earlier this year expanded Medicare Advantage coverage of telehealth services. And, as in most areas of health care innovation these days, there will be plenty of competition in this space from companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, which also are focusing on creating solutions for America’s growing older adult population. But Comcast may have an inherent business advantage is in its large force of technicians who install cable and broadband services and make in-home upgrades to clients’ systems.

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This presentation highlights the AHA Center for Health Innovation’s Market Insights report on telehealth.