Next frontier of telemedicine: Home visits, drone deliveries

This piece is presented by Avera.

From virtual doctor visits on your mobile device to health-tracking wearables, technology is making health care more personal and convenient. With the rapid changes that technology brings, the next big thing might be right around the corner.

Mandy Bell, Avera eCARE quality and innovation officer, offers a sneak peek at what’s next in telemedicine.

Home health care visits

Bell predicts that within the next year you’ll be able to purchase telehealth kits for home use that allow you to have a complete physical exam for basic illnesses, anytime and anywhere. The kits also may be used to monitor chronic conditions without frequent trips to the doctor.

By syncing with a telemedicine platform, such as Avera eCARE, the kits will allow you to share and discuss results with your provider during a virtual visit using high-definition two-way video.

Kits will include a variety of diagnostic devices equipped with guidance technology that ensures you capture the information accurately and safely. Devices may include:
• Basal thermometer for temperature.
• Digital camera for the skin and throat.
• Otoscope for the ears.
• Stethoscope for the heart, lungs and abdomen.

“The devices coach you through the exam and give you a check mark when you capture the right image or audio,” Bell said. “That gives people confidence knowing that they’re using it correctly and will get the best result – even from home.”

Avera eCARE is working with two companies – TytoCare and 19 Labs – to develop and test telehealth kits.

“The future of telemedicine is all about making health care more convenient and engaging for patients,” Bell said. “To be able to do your own exam on your own time is appealing, especially to the younger generation.”

Drone-delivered emergency kits

Another novel idea that Bell describes is the use of drones to deliver emergency telehealth kits to hard-to-reach locations. The kits will be equipped with emergency medical supplies such as a defibrillator, medications, bandages, scissors and tourniquets.

A version in testing even includes a pair of Google Glasses, which immediately connect the user to an emergency care physician who can view the scene and give life-saving instructions.

Augmented reality

Last summer’s Pokemon Go craze demonstrated how easily people are willing to engage with augmented reality – an emerging technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world.

According to Bell, this technology can be used for much more than entertainment.

“Augmented reality fits really well with telemedicine. For example, a medical specialist could use AR technology to coach another provider through a difficult or challenging procedure. The screen could be layered with images of the specialist’s hands projected right onto the patient or an image of the patient. That gives the specialists the ability to demonstrate exactly what they recommend doing in real-time.”

“The future of telehealth is exciting, and there’s lots of innovation already going on in the state,” Bell added. “If an emerging technology fits well with our mission and core competencies at Avera eCARE, we’re willing to be early adopters.”

About Avera eCARE

Avera eCARE, based in Sioux Falls, connects rural and underserved communities with specialized health care services 24/7 via telemedicine. This mission has propelled Avera eCARE to become the most robust telemedicine network in the world today.

Beyond Avera, eCARE partners with health systems, critical access hospitals, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and schools. They’re also partnering with NATO to research and develop a multinational telemedicine system that would improve access to medical care and increase survival rates in emergency, disaster response situations.

To learn more, visit

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Next frontier of telemedicine: Home visits, drone deliveries

As technology rapidly expands, there are some big innovations in health care coming close to home and sooner than you might think.

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