Necessary improvements to telehealth services in the wake of the COVID-19 public health emergency was a top takeaway from the American Telehealth Association (ATA) Annual Meeting, which took place on June 29. Dr. Aaron Spitz, chair of the Urology Telehealth Task Force, attended on behalf of the AUA and shares the information below.
The topics most relevant to urology that were discussed during the meeting included the use of artificial intelligence (AI), and direct-to-consumer (DTC) virtual care.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The ATA meeting outlined specific information about the use of artificial intelligence, specifically the use of “chat bots.” This current iteration of technology can be sophisticated and nuanced and has the potential for a high level of engagement with patients. Speakers highlighted the following:
- Chat bots are revolutionizing the intake of patient information and the presentation of data to caretakers.
- Patients like asynchronous (not simultaneous or concurrent in time) chat bots because they can take the time to provide answers and have information repeated to them without the pressure of an in-person encounter with a physician.
- Chat bots “nudge” patient into compliance or reporting information with text reminders.
- Chat bots can be used to triage patients to determine the urgency of a patients need for care.
- Chat bots work best when questions are closed ended and interactions with bots are short.
The American Medical Association (AMA) position on AI is that the technology is complementary to medical doctors, and not a means to replace them.
Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) and Digital Therapeutics Evolution
- There was significant attention placed on DTC telemedicine including services such as HIMS and Roman which provide urological DTC services.
- DTC virtual care has paved the way for telemedicine encounters. There is rapidly growing engagement by patients with these services.
- Patients with large deductibles are attracted to transparent pricing of DTC virtual care.
- DTC virtual care has traditionally been a service paid by the patient, but with the widespread adoption of telemedicine due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, providers will increasingly bill payers and strike collaborative ventures with payers.
- Studies have shown that DTC virtual care demonstrates greater adherence to clinical guidelines than in-person encounters.
- DTC virtual care companies utilize sophisticated software that streamlines the information for medical decision-making for both the provider and the patient.