How Technology can assist in Telehealth E-Consultations

Digitalization of the health care sector in Germany has a saving potential of 42bn € p.a., according to McKinsey, May 2022. One of the largest portions, McKinsey says, is seen in the area of E-Consultation, with a potential of 5,7bn € p.a. If you consider that these numbers are just about Germany, you can imagine how huge the total E-Consultation potential will be globally. These numbers show, that we can expect enormous activities in E-Consultation going forward, as the health care sector will want to leverage the potentials.

E-Consultation and its Advantages

In its usual definition, E-Consultation is the remote communication and collaboration for a patient and his/her doctor to virtually meet using Audio and Video consultation.

For you as the patient, it has the tremendous advantage not anymore having to leave your home for the doctor visit, as you anyway most likely feel bad. By just at home clicking a meeting link at the arranged time on your Laptop or Mobile Device, you get connected to the E-Consultation platform, typically entering a virtual waiting room, before the doctor invites you into the actual Real-time communication meeting using audio and video. Very likely that you as a patient have done this already.

For the doctors and clinics it opens new ways for patient engagements, with a main advantage being to reduce people traffic. You all likely have already spent hours of waiting time in crowded physical doctor`s waiting rooms, so no surprise that use of E-Consultation accelerated a lot during the pandemic.

How modern Technologies can assist in E-Consultations

Audio / Video meetings for E-Consultations for patient - doctor visits will be just the starting point. Going forward, applying modern technologies to E-Consultation will go far beyond A/V conferencing. Technologies like Conversational and Generative AI, AR, IoT or Bots continuously advance and will assist the doctor in better and faster understanding patient`s symptoms and helping in determining diagnosis and treatment:

  • Patient`s voice analytics will give hints and estimations to the doctor helping in diagnosis. This is not only about spoken words, but also about HOW the words are spoken, giving insights about patient`s sentiment and mood.
  • Textual conversation will be there as an alternative to the voice channel for patients with deaf and dumb disabilities, but of course also for any other patients. Thus analytics of written text will be supported, similar to analytics of the speech channel
  • Furthermore, Video analytics can help the doctor. Think about that a patient typically looks quite different, depending on whether he/she is just having a little cold or a very severe influenza.
  • Relevant EHRs (Electronic Health Records) from past patient visits will automatically be fetched by the system in real-time (e.g. based on triggers from voice analytics) and presented to the doctor`s E-Consultation screen GUI, helping to assist
  • Video Overlay / Augmented Reality (AR) will allow digital annotation of the video, the doctor is seeing from the patient. As an example, a potentially relevant previous EHR record information (e.g. otitis media diagnosis 6 weeks back) will be digitally annotated to patient`s video the doctor is seeing, as the system detects that this may be in relation with the patient`s current problems
  • IoT and Wearables integrations with E-Consultation platforms for the purpose of patient monitoring, such as wearables for measuring blood pressure or blood glucose, providing additional insights to the doctor about patient`s current health condition parameters
  • Chatbots or Voicebots initially are assisting patients in scheduling meeting appointments with the doctor. Going forward the patient, at least for routine consultations, may be writing or talking to a Chat-/Voicebot or even to the doctor`s digital twin.
  • Last but not least, AI/ML will be helping the doctor in predicting and determining the appropriate ICD-10 or ICD-11 codes. These are the codes for the ca. 17.700 diseases, standardized by the World Health Organization (WHO) that you can read on your sick certificate, at least on the version for your health insurance company. Not easy for the doctor to get this all right without technology support.

E-Consultation platforms must fulfil high standards with regard to security measures (e.g. end to end security,..), personal data protection (e.g. GDPR) and standard interfaces (e.g. FHIR - Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) to provide the necessary trust. At the same time the systems need to be easy to use, to lower the bar to use also for the “not so much digital natives”.

  • In summary, E-Consultation offers tremendous benefits for all involved stakeholders:
  • For the overall health care vertical sector, it has an enormous potential in terms of more efficiency and cost savings.
  • For the doctors (practitioners and clinics), it allows for new ways of patient collaboration, workflow integration and for getting better assistance through technology.
  • For the IT industry due to competition, it has the potential to create innovative E-Consultation platforms, solutions and applications.
  • Most important, for the patients it avoids having to physically go to the doctors or clinics and sitting in crowded waiting rooms, while they anyway are not feeling well.

Looking into the future 10+ years from now, you as a patient probably will meet with your doctors in a metaverse clinic, but this is a different story and probably subject to a future blog I will be writing from the metaverse.

For now, E-Consultation in some way can be compared with Working from Home, which also has lot of benefits and also had its growth during the pandemic. But as it turned out that from time to time you better should meet your colleagues in the office face to face, the same is true also for visiting your doctors. In the end it will be hybrid.

E-Consultation for other vertical markets

Beyond E-Consultation for the E-Health sector (Telehealth), it is obvious that you can apply E-Consultation also to other vertical markets and industries. Wherever a person is seeking for support and thus wants to consult remotely with a “business owner” who is there to support you using real-time audio and video collaboration - be it in retail, finance or other verticals - you just have created yet another use case for E-Consultation. You only need to adopt to the vertical`s specific processes, workflows and to integrate with the sector specific tools. You can imagine how large the overall potential market for E-Consultation will be.

E-Consultation offering for Telehealth by Atos Unify

For an introduction about what Atos Unify can do for its clinical customers for them to leverage remote telehealth patient engagement through E-Consultation and workflow integration, pls visit: https://unify.com/en/industries/healthcare-and-life-sciences

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About Karl Klaghofer

Strategic Technology Manager
Karl Klaghofer is Strategic Technology Manager at Unify and is working in its Producthouse CTO & Innovation Office, based in Munich, Germany. Within CTO & Innovation Office, he is working in fields of Technology, Innovation and Standardization. Karl is working for this company and its predecessors, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Siemens AG Private Networks, for more than 25 years. His positions were mainly in technical fields such as System Engineering, Architectures, Technical Planning and Standardization. Karl holds 50+ patents in the area of Communication & Collaboration. His aim is helping to keep Unify`s Communication and Collaboration products and solutions state of the art technology wise and to keep innovating them. Karl is Austrian and grew up near Vienna. He is married, has two sons and is living in Munich, which is a perfect place for him for combining his interests such as sports like cycling, hiking, skiing, nature, and technology.