Tele-health has existed in one form or another for decades. But it was not until COVID-19 hit that online healthcare gained serious traction. Comparing the last week of March of 2020 to the same week of the previous year, telehealth visits in the U.S increased 154%.

Some circumstances will always require patients to seek in-person care. But tele-health offers patients greater flexibility when it comes to meeting many of their healthcare needs. Those who live in rural locations, elderly patients who cannot drive, and immunocompromised individuals benefit the most from online healthcare.

Exciting trends in tele-health, as well as trends in tele-therapy continue to emerge. The kind of care people can now seek from the comfort of their own home may surprise you.

Internet of Things

The global Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market is expected to grow by more than 1,000% between 2019 and 2029 — from $24.4 to $285.5 billion.

Examples of IoMT devices include wearables, like fitness bands and patches, and objects like smart beds. These gadgets collect data on a person's health, like pulse rate, temperature, and blood oxygen levels. They enable clinicians to monitor patients without in-person meetings.

Hundreds of hardware startups cropped up over the last 10 years to stake their claim in this new frontier of healthcare. Edinburgh-based Current Health offers an armband that tracks your vital signs. An Israeli company, Biobeat, developed its own IoMT-enabled blood pressure and heart-rate monitor. Seattle-based Bardy Diagnostics makes remote monitoring patches to track heart health.

Tele-health software companies like California-based Carium display data provided by such IoMT devices in a user-friendly interface. They also facilitate communication between patients and providers.

"Being able to seamlessly tap into devices that individuals will use in their daily lives that can also automatically transmit or collect data means that new insights will be obtained that can inform care decisions," said Matt Fisher, general counsel at Carium.

"If trends or issues can be spotted earlier, it may be possible to drive better overall health and wellbeing," he added.

For patients that require frequent attention, such as those with chronic diseases, the number of times they need to see their doctor in person can be reduced with tele-health.

Artificial Intelligence

A.I. can analyze data collected from IoMT-enabled devices. This technology shortens the time it takes to diagnose a patient and connect them with an appropriate specialist.

For example, if a patient is displaying signs of heart disease, e.g., irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, A.I. can potentially detect these symptoms. A.I. can then notify physicians to investigate further. The idea is not to replace doctors, but to make their jobs easier and get patients the help they need faster. In some cases, A.I. may even save lives.

Massachusetts-based MayaMD is one of many companies using A.I. in their software. Cofounder Christian Habermann said the platform provides doctors with a list of potential diagnoses based on a patient's symptoms and history. These results are sorted by the probability of a patient's condition.

"It's also extremely helpful in preventing costly, unnecessary visits to the ER, which can be triaged by our clinical engine or routed instead to telemedicine," he said. "Costly post-surgery or post in-patient treatment readmissions can be avoided or minimized too with A.I. since predictive algorithms can get ahead of the curve and intervene with a timely and helpful post-discharge patient check-in."

Emergency Medical Services

Emergency medical services (EMS) agencies — which send ambulances when you call 911 — also benefitted from recent trends in tele-health during COVID-19.

"You had a perfect storm where the call load almost doubled and you lost one fourth of your workforce," said Dr. Eckstein, CEO of the EMS platform Tele911, which was founded in 2020.

Dr. Eckstein has served as the medical director of the Los Angeles Fire Department since 1996 and has 35 years of experience in emergency medicine. He and his partners sought to improve EMS operations after observing major inefficiencies in the system over the years.

"[EMS] hasn't evolved since its inception over 50 years ago and it's become very unsustainable," he said.

During the pandemic, the Los Angeles EMS system "was literally crashing during the emergency," with some paramedics waiting to get patients from the parking lot into hospitals for up to eight hours.

"It really underscored the fact that the system was very fragile, and the need to leverage innovation and technology to fundamentally change it for the better right now," he said.

Tele911 allows paramedics to triage patients in their homes to determine whether or not they actually need to be transported to the hospital. Usually, they do not. But until tele-health, paramedics were often unable to make this determination on the scene.

"The overwhelming majority of EMS calls are not critically ill or injured people," Dr. Eckstein said. "By integrating telemedicine into EMS, we bring a board certified emergency physician to the bedside virtually. Then, the emergency physician can determine very quickly if the patient needs to be transported in the first place, or if they can be treated at home."

The latest trends in tele-health change the game for EMS agencies. Tele-health saves agencies time and money while helping more patients get the help they need faster.


The history of telehealth in optometry is fraught with controversy. For years, advocacy groups have fought against state legislation prohibiting tele-optometry.

"The pandemic pushed telemedicine forward at least 10 years. Since the early 2000s, there have been a lot of technological advancements in the virtual eye care space," said Dr. Esther Young, director of optometry at EyeQue. "The shelter-in-place order made it a necessity in the past 15 months and accelerated the adoption."

Software startups like EyeQue jumped on the opportunity to advance progress in tele-optometry. In the spring of 2021, the vision testing app formed a partnership with EyecareLive to offer virtual appointments. They can diagnose dry eye, pink eye, eye allergies, and other conditions.

"At this moment, the technology to perform nearly every aspect of a comprehensive eye exam remotely is available, and some eye clinics are already using such technology to integrate them for a smooth and seamless patient experience," Dr. Young said.

More serious conditions, like corneal foreign bodies and retinal detachment, still require in-person exams. Dr. Young says that healthy individuals should still schedule in-person visits for dilated eye health exams every 1-2 years. However, tele-optometry helps monitor vision changes. It can also significantly reduce the number of trips a patient takes to their optometrist.


Trends in tele-therapy have also emerged. Before the pandemic, 63.6% of respondents to an American Psychiatric Association survey reported they did not use tele-therapy at all. After COVID-19 hit, only 1.9% of respondents did not use tele-therapy.

"So many have believed providing care outside of the standard office meeting was impossible. However, now clinicians and clients have experienced so much more flexibility for getting mental health care," said Carley Trillow, an Ohio-based trauma and addiction therapist. "Most of the therapists I collaborate with are wanting to stay in telehealth only."

During the pandemic, many governors allowed therapists practicing in one state to treat a patient in another. Private insurers, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, also loosened restrictions on coverage for online therapy.

But will these trends in tele-therapy remain post-pandemic? Some major insurers have already started to remove certain aspects of their coverage of telehealth services.

"Clients are having to discontinue attending therapy when the pandemic is still alive and it's posing a risk to individuals across the country — and likely the globe." Trillow said.

The Future of Tele-Health

The potential of tele-health is exciting, but there are some barriers preventing its growth. Complications with insurance coverage and government regulations have slowed its momentum.

"It wasn't uncommon less than five years ago for providers and patients alike to experience issues when filing claims for tele-health procedures," said Scott Spivack, marketing director of United Medical Credit, a healthcare financing company based in Irvine. "That was especially true for Medicare patients, who faced some of the strictest tele-health coverage rules."

There remains a lack of consensus as to whether or not insurance should cover online healthcare visits. The complex issue of state licensure laws, which we have already seen begin to limit trends in tele-therapy, also poses a problem. However, experts are hopeful that these measures could become permanent.

"I wouldn't be surprised if within the next 5-10 years, all states standardized some sort of tele-health-empowering legislation," Spivack said. "More than half of states currently have such legislation in the books, but I suspect we'll only see those numbers grow."

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