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Telemedicine – the digital transformation of the medical practice

Video consultation with specialists, support for patients via app or remote monitoring of health status – telemedicine will dominate our healthcare in the future. And both doctors and patients will be happy: Because telemedicine offers many benefits to both. From our UX perspective, we review the benefits and explore how the digital transformation of healthcare can work.

Online solutions are constantly changing our lives. It is obvious: The Internet and the accompanying networking and digitalization are driving change. This change is not only happening in the area of online banking, e-commerce stores, web chat, social media or e-learning platforms. One of the most significant Internet-based digital transformations is taking place through telemedicine apps.

Already today and definitely in the near future, you can utilize apps to book your doctor's appointments, consult doctors directly on your mobile screen, access important health statistics, and have your health monitored by medical professionals. These online apps that can help patients with technology-driven features are called telemedicine or telehealth apps.

How do telemedicine apps help?

The Corona pandemic has shown the following: The healthcare system must function even without a personal presence. And it is remote healthcare that enables telemedicine apps. This is especially beneficial in rural areas and communities where there are few doctors. This means that patients do not have to travel long distances for appointments with doctors. Sufferers who have limited mobility can compensate by using telemedicine apps. Telemedicine apps are making healthcare more accessible and cost-effective for people with financial constraints.

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Of course, the user experience plays a major role in this context as well: In principle, it isn’t a matter of digitizing healthcare. Instead, the goal is to find solutions that offer added value to patients and physicians. To accomplish this, it is necessary to understand their challenges and develop appropriate solutions. Medical safety design is essential to avoid operating errors. But also, to visualize data in an understandable, transparent and accessible way. In particular, the visualization of data in medical technology is not a triviality given the amount and type of data, but an important building block in the quality of care for patients. Imagine, for example, chronically ill people such as diabetics, who have to record and interpret essential health data and, based on this, treat themselves in everyday life.

Here, telemedicine offers many advantages to make healthcare more efficient and easier for patients, but also for doctors.

Easy access to care and treatment

Patients want to be within easy reach of their treatment center. This is their most important selection criterion. Telemedicine apps meet this criterion to a great extent. It comes as no surprise that, according to various studies and surveys, patients and doctors increasingly prefer mobile or online consultations to personal visits.*

Virtual care and online patient visits now receive praise for providing patients with immediate, on-demand care without wasting time and resources. The quality should not differ from conventional personal medical visits.** This is ensured by video conferencing, live chat, cloud-based database and other communication channels.

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For telemedicine apps to be easily and conveniently accessible, manufacturers must choose the right technology and offer the right features. It is also a matter of properly translating into digital, or possibly rethinking, the processes that can't be done digitally in exactly the same way as they are in practice. In many projects, we notice this is not a matter of course. There is often an assumption that a physical process can simply be mapped identically. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, it requires a special know-how to develop human-centered processes for digital applications.

Big savings in healthcare

Services for remote analysis and real-time monitoring of patients have greatly reduced the cost of healthcare services. This cost reduction has resulted in a positive impact on patients, healthcare facilities and health insurance – and this justifies the cost of the apps. And as more healthcare facilities jump on the telemedicine bandwagon and offer medical apps to patients, the total cost per user for telemedicine apps becomes more affordable. Apart from this, telemedicine apps help to increase the revenue of healthcare facilities: They increase physician productivity while reducing the number of personal visits. Spatial proximity is becoming less important as well. This makes it easier for doctors to attract and treat patients from greater distances.

Quick access to specialists

Telemedicine apps guarantee easier and immediate access to many specialists*. This is particularly helpful for patients in rural and remote regions where there is a shortage of specialists. But even in structurally stronger areas, appointments with the nearest specialists are often not available for months. Thanks to telemedicine, society can make better and more efficient use of the limited resource of “specialists”: With apps, doctors can refer patients to other specialists. They can also help to find and make appointments with available specialists. Due to the possibility of bridging larger distances, treatment by a specialist further away is possible with fewer problems. This distributes the workload among specialists much better, which increases the overall quality of care.

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Improved patient engagement

Patients with chronic diseases usually have to keep track of their own health data and goals and treat themselves: Telemedicine apps can support this group of patients in particular. This contributes to better health for patients and lower costs for health insurances. Involving patients in their care and treatment process thus leads to higher quality of care at low costs.

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If we take a look at the everyday life of diabetics, for example, several starting points come to mind:

  • Diabetes patients can use their smartphones to upload nutrition lists, drug doses, and blood glucose readings, so nurses can review them remotely.
  • Through an online portal, diabetes sufferers can access medical history, test results, scheduled doctor's appointments, prescriptions, etc.
  • You can use an app to keep track of your consumption of various foods and stay up to date with nutrition and diet charts.

Epidemiological control

We've all learned about another way to use telehealth apps in the last two years: controlling the risk and spread of infection. The Corona warning app is – despite GDPR hurdles and clear potential for improvement – a good example. It shows how to meaningfully track health data and probabilities of infection and use them to maintain healthcare.

Breaking new digital ground

The digital transformation is also steadily advancing in medical technology and opening up new avenues. To deliver real value to patients and physicians, new digital ideas need to be not just sophisticated, but human-centric. We have been accompanying companies on their way to new services and products for more than two decades. As digital experience designers, we have long been developing solutions for medical technology that ensures higher user satisfaction and product success through human-centered design. In the coming years, we expect the number of telemedicine applications to increase rapidly. Telemedicine will be the new normal for patient care and treatment in the coming years. Because telemedicine is not just a technology trend. Rather, it perfectly represents what the modern healthcare industry is aiming to achieve in the coming years: the digital transformation of healthcare.

The author

Yasin Demiraslan is Senior Manager Strategic Marketing at User Interface Design GmbH (UID). In this role, he manages strategic marketing at UID and optimizes the development of new products and services. In addition, he serves UID clients primarily from the northern and central German regions. Yasin Demiraslan completed his studies in Economics with a focus on Corporate Management and Innovation Management at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany.