What You Need to Know About Telehealth

Source:    aarp.org

Source: aarp.org

As the Rocky Mountain region prepares for the first snowstorm of the season, western Pacific islands are preparing for Super Typhoon Hagibis. In the face of natural disasters or other emergencies, accessible healthcare is critical — and telehealth might be the answer. 

Telehealth provides long-distance medical care, health education, health administration, and other similar services through telecommunications and digital communications. Although often confused with telemedicine, which refers only to administering medical care, telehealth is an array of healthcare functions.

Multiple technologies are employed in telehealth, and there are still more to come. Among these are video conferencing, mobile health (mHealth), remote patient monitoring (RPM), and store and forward. So how do these work?

For rural communities or people who are unable to travel, distance is a health issue. Now with just a video call, a physician can offer a non-emergency consultation from thousands of miles away. Telehealth can also be found right on our smartphones with multiple mHealth apps offering access to medical data, schedule appointments, and in-app physician messaging.

RPM devices collect patient data and securely transmit it back to the care provider for analysis. They don’t have to be uncomfortable or burdensome — RPM technology can often be a Fitbit-like device or a mobile app. By gathering and analyzing information like blood sugar levels, heart rate, and more, RPM reduces cost and improves quality care.

Oftentimes health experts aren’t geographically located nearby, but there’s no longer a need to travel to another city. Store and forward technology captures health information like CAT scans and MRIs to send to other specialists for treatment assistance. 

Multiple hospitals have already deployed telehealth services to the Bahamas and other impacted communities. Immediate health care access is vital after natural disasters, but telehealth can also reach rural and underserved communities that can not traditionally access services. 

Take veterans, for example. Telehealth isn’t new for the Veteran Affairs (VA), and they’ve long been pioneers in the telehealth industry. VAVideoConnect enhances the medical care of nine million veterans by connecting them to their health care team in a private session.

Telehealth also has a place in the battlefield. The Department of Defense (DoD) has partnered with GlobalMed to provide soldiers virtual care worldwide. Active duty members and their dependents can access quality healthcare through secured networks no matter where they are in the world.

Telehealth is still evolving, and it has the potential to provide solutions for rural communities, emergency management, and public defense. Learn more about other ways to reach rural communities. 

What’s the Future of AI for Federal Government?

The federal government is gearing up for a widespread AI initiative. On September 9, 2019, over 175 leaders and innovators in government, industry, and academia collaborated at the White House’s Summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government. AI is the future, and this partnership between the private and public sector is leading the way.

“We have so much potential to use AI in a way that reduces costs, improves quality of services, empowers people, and increases efficiency,” said Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the USA, in his opening remarks. 

First on the agenda? Although individual agencies have adopted AI into their working practices before, the federal government is looking to initiate an AI Center of Excellence (CoE) as a central hub for all federal agencies. An AI CoE would enable different agencies to share their AI know-how and support new initiatives. 

Some departments are already pioneering this effort. The Department of Defense’s own interdepartmental AI CoE is the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). The JAIC develops AI capabilities for disaster relief and humanitarian aid from tracking wildfires to providing road and flood analysis. 

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has focused its AI efforts into optimizing their database. PubHealth, one of the most visited federal databases, will improve search capability by implementing a “best match” algorithm due to go live in the next two months. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has similarly focused on usability with its “AI for Deregulation” pilot. This natural language processing program will analyze burdensome and redundant language in regulations to streamline the US regulations system.

While the summit has introduced new AI initiatives and highlighted some of the federal government’s recent innovations, it’s not new that AI is a government priority. In February 2019, the White House announced an American AI initiative to promote and protect national AI innovation. Even before that, the White House created a strategic plan for national AI research and development in 2016. 

The government has already projected $1 billion in non-defense AI research and development in 2020, and industry experts believe it may take a lot more to take the lead in the AI race. Nevertheless, it is critical for the federal government to lead the implementation of AI-based innovations.