Bold Business Logo

Best of 2020: The Evolution of Telemedicine

Every year has their ups and downs. While 2020 will be long perceived as having more of the latter, that doesn’t mean some upsides occurred as well. Among some of the most notable were some of the advances that the pandemic encouraged. In this regard, telemedicine in 2020 has seen some remarkable changes that are worth noting. Advances in telehealth have occurred at all levels from platforms, to providers, to patients. And as a result, the healthcare landscape will be forever changed moving forward.

Telemedicine in 2020 began with a subtle promise of change for the future of healthcare. Many advantages were being touted, but at the same time, many barriers stood in the way. Some were legal and regulatory while others were related to societal resistance. But that all changed after COVID-19 came onto the scene. Within months, advances in telehealth have completely changed our perception of virtual healthcare services. For this reason, it’s important to take a look back at the year to see just how far we’ve come.

“A shift in patients’ perception of telehealth has perhaps been the most important in increasing adoption, with attitudes moving from, ‘This provider must not think my problem is important since they are seeing me via telehealth,’ to ‘This provider cares about me and therefore is seeing me via telehealth.’” – Jonathan R. Slotkin, M.D., Neurosurgery, Danville, PA

What a Difference a Pandemic Makes

Many have been encouraging healthcare systems for years to embrace advances in telehealth for the sake of medicine. These services offer many potential advantages, of which many are desperately needed in healthcare today. For rural communities and those in need of high-level specialists, telemedicine offers greater access. Likewise, many suggested before that telehealth offers greater efficiency and reduces healthcare costs. But despite this, providers, patients and health insurers alike resisted.

With the pandemic, however, everything changed. Healthcare systems were overloaded with COVID-19 cases, and in-person care was high-risk. Advances in telehealth offered greater safety for patients and healthcare workers alike. As a result, telemedicine in 2020 skyrocketed with 80 percent of all providers now offering at least partial services. In the process, providers realized they needed less office space and enjoyed greater mobility and flexibility. Patients realized they no longer had to travel or sit in waiting rooms for extended periods of time. And everyone appreciated the fact that advances in telehealth offered high-quality care. It was a massive paradigm shift in awareness that catalyzed telemedicine in 2020.

The Explosion of Telemedicine in 2020

The growth of telemedicine in 2020 has extended well beyond hospitals and providers’ offices. Major companies have enjoyed tremendous success by capitalizing on these new trends and advances in telehealth. Teladoc, a leader in telehealth services, saw an increase in virtual healthcare visits in its platform by more than 200 percent. This resulted in an 85 percent growth in year-on-year revenues. Epic, a leader in electronic healthcare records, partnered with Twilio this year. This offered providers videoconferencing tools while simultaneously documenting in patient charts. And other companies launched new healthcare platforms in telehealth previously underappreciated. Mydecine Innovation Group Inc. introduced its Mindleap Health app designed to provide mental healthcare. Even Televet and several other companies accelerated their platforms for veterinary telehealth services. As is clear, the advances in telehealth have been rather broad.

While these advances in telehealth are impressive, there are others worth mentioning as well. Telemedicine in 2020 also saw increased telehealth surgeries over the course of the year. Many elective surgeries were postponed or cancelled. However, some companies have increased their use of robotics to perform remote surgeries via telehealth. Corindus Vascular Robotics is one such company. Likewise, others have sought to leverage telemedicine in 2020 to improve healthcare training. Santen Pharmaceuticals Company and Orbis International partnered to launch a Cybersight training platform in order to accelerate provider training abroad. It thus seems the entirety of healthcare has finally embraced telemedicine as a favored approach.

“Physicians have found telemedicine has served as a vital lifeline for practices negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. In our view, the rapid uptake of telemedicine has important structural implications for the U.S. healthcare system.” – Christopher Whaley, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, University of California’s Berkeley School of Public Health

Future Advances in Telehealth to Come

Naturally, the rapid changes in telemedicine in 2020 have been challenging. Many hospitals and providers have had to adapt quickly as have patients. New credentialing protocols needed to be established for providers in many areas. Likewise, new infrastructures were needed in many locations to handle more robust utilization. And of course, new policies and procedures on how to handle advances in telehealth had to be devised and adopted. A significant number of healthcare institutions lacked these systems and workflows when 2020 began. But this is no longer the case.

Some of the major barriers that existed before have now been eliminated or reduced. For one, health insurance companies are no longer reimbursing providers at reduced rates for telemedicine services. After the pandemic began, the CDC relaxed its restrictions on telehealth services and recommended full reimbursement for clinical services. Likewise, patients became more adept at using videoconferencing tools and valued the safety of telemedicine platforms. Finally, providers who had previously been reluctant also saw its benefits, especially in the midst of a health crisis. All of these developments paved the way for modern telehealth use and technological advances in telehealth.

While these changes have been vast and rapid, much more is expected to come. Analysts predict that the telemedicine industry will increase 7-fold over the next 5 years. This means roughly a 38 percent annual growth during this time. Likewise, industry CIO’s are pushing for improved patient engagement tools, more extensive use of AI, and better workflow integrations. And of course, the need for robust cybersecurity is essential for telemedicine in 2020 in beyond. While 2020 was indeed a banner year for advances in telehealth, it isn’t likely to be the last. It may have simply been the year that its advantages were more fully appreciated.

 

Want to make 2021 a better year than 2020? Then check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

Virtual Hypnosis: The Facts and the Fiction

When one thinks of hypnosis therapy, images of a performer dangling a timepiece on a chain often comes to mind. The reluctant volunteer may soon be prancing around like a chicken for the audience’s entertainment. But this is not what real hypnosis involves, and the stigma associated with it often undermines its potential. In fact, hypnosis, as well as virtual hypnosis, is well accepted by the medical community today. It’s used in a variety of circumstances with notable success. Thus, it’s important to appreciate what is myth and what is actual truth.

Virtual hypnosis has notably become more popular as social distancing and lockdowns have come into effect. Along with advances in telehealth, virtual hypnosis has attracted a number of followers. In addition, many startups are advancing hypnosis therapy over digital media for a variety of health conditions. While extensive research is lacking for all these uses, the evidence available looks quite promising. And as more is revealed about how hypnosis works, it’s likely more will be hopping on the bandwagon as well.

“People either think it’s ridiculous or dangerous. Because it’s hypnosis, people just don’t take it seriously.” – David Spiegel, Clinical Psychiatrist, Stanford University School of Medicine and Co-Founder, Reveri Health.

What’s Known About Hypnosis Therapy

The goal of hypnosis therapy is to create a relaxed yet focused state of mind for the individual. In this type of state, a person becomes highly suggestible to verbal cues and mental images. In essence, hypnosis moves beyond our conscious state of thinking to a subconscious one. But that doesn’t mean someone is not aware. Research shows that all forms of hypnosis, including virtual hypnosis reduces activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus of the brain. This area is important for critical judgment and analysis. Thus, it is believed that hypnosis allows effects at a deeper more emotional level of judgment.

The more relaxed a person becomes, the greater the potential that hypnosis therapy has. This is one reason that virtual hypnosis may be more effective. Because individuals are able to perform hypnosis in their home, they may be more comfortable. Experts generally suggest that a third of patients may not be able to be hypnotized. But this figure may fall if virtual hypnosis platforms become more effective. With the pandemic, it is evident hat more people are considering this type of intervention. In turn, this should provide greater insights about its effectiveness.

A dude mesmerized by whatever is on his laptop.
Telemedicine has brought medical treatment into the home, and virtual hypnosis has done the same for therapy.

Based on current research, most of what is known about hypnosis therapy relates to pain control. Several studies demonstrate benefits of hypnosis in pain situations including those related to medical procedures. Hypnosis has been found to help patients mobilize self-soothing neurochemicals that reduce both pain and anxiety. In some cases, this has allowed patients to avoid analgesics or anesthetic agents altogether. This has broad potential benefits ranging from reduced risks of addiction to the avoidance of unwanted side effects. Use of hypnosis in these settings are well accepted within healthcare today.

“It helps the person open themselves up beyond their usual conscious defenses, so that they’re able to see things differently than they normally would or adopt a new belief about something.” – Kristen Harrington, Marriage & Family Therapist, New York

The Rise of Virtual Hypnosis

This past year, the pandemic has served as a catalyst for many businesses including those involved in virtual hypnosis. Understanding that hypnosis is primarily auditory in nature, it can be readily achieved online or through digital media. As a result, some startups have taken advantage of these opportunities. For example, Reveri Health, originating out of Stanford University, now has over 2,000 users of its digital hypnosis therapy platform. Its app is interactive and enables users to self-hypnotize themselves in the comfort of their home.

Reveri Health is not alone. Mindset Health is another virtual hypnosis startup that has gained over 6,000 users. It has also received over $1.1 million in venture capital funding. Both of these hypnosis therapy apps are being promoted for a number of conditions beyond pain management. Specifically, anxiety, sleep difficulty, phobias, and compulsive disorders are being treated via virtual hypnosis. This includes individuals trying to quit smoking and those who suffer from overeating behaviors.

Notably, the pandemic has triggered increased anxiety and some compulsive trends that could benefit from hypnosis therapy. But many in the field believe that hypnosis could follow meditation and mindfulness apps in popularity. Unlike meditation, which is more open-ended, hypnosis therapy is usually more focused and goal oriented. This is attractive to many users. Likewise, like meditation apps and other digital therapeutics, virtual hypnosis can be performed in a number of places. Reveri Health’s platform works off of Amazon’s Alexa, but other similar opportunities exist.

“The patients I work with obviously have a reason to be anxious, and so we normalize that, and understand that, and we try to teach them skills like self-hypnosis to manage their anxiety.” – Alison Snow, Assistant Director of Cancer Supportive Services, Mount Sinai Health System, New York

Hypnosis Therapy Fueled by Technology

The advances of virtual hypnosis not only have the pandemic to thank but technologies as well. Improved telehealth platform and videoconferencing tools are notable in this regard. But at the same time, artificial intelligence and neuro-linguistic processing are also being used to enhance hypnosis therapy. Reveri Health specifically uses NLP in its Alexa platform to guide hypnosis instructions. And others are beginning to incorporate virtual reality glasses ad imagery into virtual hypnosis approaches. All of these advances mean that a significant amount of research data can be collected regarding these types of therapeutics. And while we already know hypnosis has great potential, we will understand this much better as this information becomes available. If favorable, virtual hypnosis may well replace meditation therapies in many areas.

 

Want to make 2021 a better year than 2020? Then check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

Best of 2020: Robotics Enters the Next Phase

The pandemic has catalyzed new developments in a number of industries this past year. Videoconferencing tools, delivery services and more have evolved as a result. In most instances, trends already favored advancement in these areas. But both the development and adoption of these technologies occurred more rapidly as COVID-19 struck. The use of robotics in 2020 is a prime example of such a technology trend. In fact, advances in robotics this past year alone have been quite remarkable and deserve recognition.

Robotics in 2020 has seen more than their typical use in warehouses and manufacturing lines. A tremendous expansion of robotics has occurred, impacting at least a dozen different sectors as a result. From healthcare, to hospitality, to professional services, innovations in robotics are everywhere. In an effort to look back on the past year and note these accomplishments, the following offers a review. In doing so, it becomes easier to appreciate just how many advances in robotics took place.

“Beyond warehouses, delivery robots—also known as Personal Delivery Devices (PPDs)—were already on the rise pre-pandemic. However, the combination of a need for humans to distance and a worldwide increase in demand for home delivery accelerated the rollout of the robots themselves, as well as the government regulations that give them the freedom to roam.” – Bill Studebaker, President & CIO, ROBO Global

Advances in Robotics in Healthcare

Robotics in 2020 saw a tremendous boost in healthcare as one might expect. The pandemic placed tremendous pressure on healthcare services, and it posed safety risks to all. As a result, robotics has been increasingly used to assist with these pressures. Some robotics systems are now being used in disinfection procedures using ultraviolet light. Others have been utilized to collect specimen samples and analyze test results using AI. And in China, robotic drones monitored body temperature among residents to aid in quarantines.

A robotic arm grabbing an organic arm
Advances in robotics in 2020 include various healthcare applications.

The advances in robotics within healthcare has indeed been profound. Combined with advances in telemedicine, robotics facilitated remote surgical procedures. Others, such as those designed by Flexiv, have been designed to provide health services such as body massages. And researchers at the University of Vermont introduced xenobots made from frog stem cells. These organic robots are being developed to assist with organ transplants as well as drug delivery systems. The pandemic certainly accelerated the development of robotic in 2020 in healthcare settings.

Advances in Robotics in Hospitality

Amidst the pandemic, the service industries were among the hardest hit. Restaurants, tourism services, and the travel sector were greatly impacted. While robotics in 2020 did not have as much of an impact in these areas, advances were still notable. Specifically, grocery deliveries and the use of robotics to restock shelves have expanded over the year. Starship Robotics specifically launched robotic grocery delivery services. Likewise, new innovations such as robotic luggage now offers GPS guidance for luggage carriers. These will have ongoing effects on the hospitality moving forward.

In addition to these advances in robotics, others are more extensive. Samsung and Miso Robotics introduced a ceiling-based robotics system for restaurants this year. In addition to preparing nearly 20 different meals, it also tracks inventory and can coordinate delivery. These types of advances have the potential to greatly improve efficiency and costs in the restaurant sector.

Advances in Robotics in Logistics and Operations

Naturally, robotics in 2020 has seen significant improvements within the area of logistics and operations. This is certainly notable for manufacturing plants and warehouses where robotics plays a significant role. In this regard, companies like Exotec are contributing to a multi-billion-dollar industry expected to grow annually at 8 percent. Their Skypod system uses laser guidance to navigate a 3-dimensional space. Likewise, it is scalable and promotes worker safety. These are key areas where advances in robotics are needed.

Of course, advances in robotics are also being realized for home operations as well. Not only did robotics in 2020 see a boom in home-based robot purchases. It also saw new comprehensive robotics systems being introduced for homes as well. Toyota Research Institute introduced its ceiling-based robotics system designed to help older adults remain independent. While it requires forethought and design prior to home construction, its capacities to assist elderly are noteworthy.

Advances in Robotics in Administration

Administration covers a fairly broad area ranging from governments to corporations. Interestingly, robotics in 2020 have impacted most of these areas. Even before the pandemic, Major League Baseball was exploring the use of robotic umpires. But since COVID-19, administrative robotics have advanced even further. The ability to incorporate AI into robotics has meant many can serve more advanced roles. These roles include oversight duties, accounting, and systems monitoring.

One of the most notable advances in robotics this year involves their use in judicial and legal areas. China has used AI-enhanced robots to judge over 3 million legal disputes already. Likewise, the UK is developing actual robotic judges that discern both objective and subjective cues in determining guilt or innocence. Even California is considering using advances in robotics to determine bail amounts based on algorithmic data. These systems are far from perfect and still being developed. But they highlight just how far robotics in 2020 has come.

“Robotics as a Service (RaaS) Market is growing at a High CAGR during the forecast period 2021-2027. The increasing interest of the individuals in this industry is that the major reason for the expansion of this market.” – Roger Smith, Business Development Manager, A2Z Market research

Robotics as a Service

The broad range of growth for robotics in 2020 is impressive, and much of this has been encouraged by the pandemic. However, these advances in robotics are not without a price tag. Understanding this, many sectors are exploring robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) in an effort to make these offerings more affordable. These developments will further expand access of these robotics innovations to a variety of consumers. Indeed, many unfortunate things occurred in 2020, but advances in robotics were not among them. Robotics in 2020 has definitely been a bright spot this past year.

 

Want to make 2021 a better year than 2020? Then check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.