Telemedicine: what role can Artificial Intelligence play? – Challenges

The French government launched its telemedicine program in 2009. Five telemedicine acts are listed and organized in the Public Health Code: teleconsultation, teleexpertise, medical telemonitoring, medical teleassistance and medical response. L’Assurance Maladie has reimbursed teleconsultation acts since September 2018 – and tele-expertise acts since February 2019. But, until 2020, the adoption of telemedicine has remained low. In 2019, teleconsultation represented no more than 0.04% of all medical consultations. It took until the Covid-19 pandemic hit to change that.

Telemedicine: from a niche alternative to a mainstream practice

Acts of teleconsultation and tele-expertise have been thrust into the limelight during successive waves of the pandemic. According to a recent study by the Molinari Economic Institute, published on January 18, 2022, they went from 40,000 per month in February 2020 to 4.5 million in April 2020. Three quarters of general practitioners have set up teleconsultation, whereas less than 5% practiced it before the pandemic , according to the Department of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees). Telemedicine has also played a decisive role in preserving the health and well-being of millions of patients.

If the use of telemedicine during confinement was to be a temporary solution, today neither patients nor practitioners want to give it up. She has indeed entered into the morals. In Europe, the French are moreover the most favorable to telemedicine with 73% positive judgments. And, 49% of the 335 people questioned in France indicated that they had no hesitation in using teleconsultations in 2020, whether to obtain medical advice or treatment (online study, conducted by OnePoll for Nuance Communications, between April 21 and May 7, 2021). The French are also calling on the public authorities to invest more in this alternative to traditional in-office consultations. In addition, 69% of the doctors questioned, within the framework of the survey Odoxaare favorable to the development of telemedicine.

A solution to several challenges of the French health system

The French health system suffers from territorial inequalities, a shortage of doctors and nurses, as well as a wave of burnout amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Health expenditure is also particularly high, given the fragmentation of its services and its actors, but also the administrative complexity. New technologies can help provide care and diagnosis at lower cost. For example, the use of teleconsultations and teleexpertise would allow to save 467 million euros for Health Insurance on all general practitioner and specialist consultations.

Telemedicine also offers a multitude of advantages to patients:

  • Improve access to care throughout the country;
  • Reduce patient waiting times by providing them with a greater choice of practitioners and thus alleviate medical deserts;
  • Improve the quality of care through better communication between health professionals.

On the physician side, telemedicine practices can also contribute to:

  • Reduce their travel time so that they can devote more of their working day to consultations;
  • Ensure more frequent and informal follow-up with patients;
  • Strengthen real-time collaboration between practitioners, thanks to the digital capture of data and information shared during telemedicine acts;
  • Combat burnout and help improve the Quality of Life at Work for physicians by eliminating some of the administrative tasks and effort associated with managing physical appointments;
  • Give a new form of exercise to health professionals, complementary to face-to-face patient follow-up and in line with the aspirations of reconciling professional and personal life.

However, all these advantages do not automatically result from telemedicine procedures. To take full advantage of this, physicians must evolve their medical practice by adopting new tools and technologies and the skills necessary for remote patient care.

The Future of Patient-Centric, AI-Driven Telemedicine

Telemedicine practices are ushering in a new paradigm: they are fundamentally changing the way patients receive care, the shape of healthcare engagements, and how we think about care delivery.

They must raise new questions, such as:

  • How to facilitate the entry of clinical data and share them between practitioners?
  • How to apply AI to speed up diagnosis?
  • How do patients want to engage with physicians in a virtual setting, and how does this differ from physical consultations?
  • How to optimize current telemedicine offers to develop and streamline the patient journey?

AI, cloud-integrated and the use of connected medical devices by the patient thus have an important role to play in creating excellent augmented teleconsultation experiences. Several healthcare institutions are already using AI to improve the quality of care delivered to patients. The medical voice recognition powered by AI, for example, allows doctors to create precise and detailed clinical notes simply by speaking. Recognized as a technology capable of restoring medical time to physicians, its advantages are amplified in the context of telemedicine. It is already complex to establish a human connection by video; the last thing a doctor needs is constantly looking at their keyboard and typing notes or spending hours after their day of consultations finalizing reports. In the United States, the solution Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX), compatible with all teleconsultation platforms, allows the automation of real-time documentation in the patient file. (DAX is currently only available in the North American market).

French patients also recognize the value of AI in their healthcare journey. OnePoll recently asked the French about the benefits of AI-assisted clinical documentation:

  • 31% said it would help their doctor focus more on diagnosis,
  • 47% that it would save them time,
  • And more than a third of that would improve the level of detail and accuracy.

Learn more about the key role that AI is called upon to play for telemedicine: I discover

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Telemedicine: what role can Artificial Intelligence play? – Challenges

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