Are we ready for telemedicine in anesthesia? Dr. med Andrea Vincenzo Braga, CEO, Bragamed, Baar, Switzerland, says ‘yes’. He highlighted that the medical industry has always been ready for the concept of remote consultation, considering the significant evolution in communication channels to accommodate it. “Telemedicine existed since the 1800s when a telegraph-based teleconsultation took place in Barrow Creek, an Australian outback, in 1874. As I looked into various research publications, I found that even certain instructions for anaesthesiology, or even surgery, were shared by telegraphy. The recent pandemic simply brought telemedia in anaesthesiology back into the minds of medical professionals and end-users,” he said.
Looking ahead the future of telemedicine itself is bright. According to Statistica, the ehealth market is poised to grow by Euro 78.1 billion by 2025, further driven by significant mobile smartphone ownership notably among users aged between 18 and 49 years. Dr. Braga also highlighted that the latest advances in technology have made video teleconferencing seamless. However, media training is a scope that is not often addressed to improve the remote interaction between practitioner and patient.
“One thing that is very important for those involved in various disciplines that use telemedicine — from the anaesthesiologist and GPs, to paediatricians and psychiatrists — is that we need to understand how to maximise the use of technical devices,” he said.
This includes retraining doctors to be more confident on camera and teaching them how to present themselves during live video consultations to build a level of trust among patients. Telemedicine in anaesthesia remains largely unexplored, but healthcare leaders such as Dr. Braga is paving the way for the design and installation of state-of-the-art telemedical consultation centres to enhance the delivery of care in different phases.
In his keynote, Dr. Braga highlighted that telemedicine in anaethesia involves pre-medication consultation, management of anaesthesia and observation during patient recovery. It can further offer university-level support for rural hospitals, and establish pre-operative settings for standard operations on healthy patients.
“I would really like to highlight that one case published in the British Journal of Medicine last year, around 2,800 or so patients were doing the pre-interventional visits with anaesthesiology, and this showed a very high success rate,” he said.
While the need for medical care in remote areas has traditionally driven telemedicine and its adoption, there are newer trends taking it to newer heights. Among these is the need for more GPs and specialists across the world. Dr. Braga states that Europe, in particular, is faced with an imminent shortage of general practitioners as 70 per cent of the existing doctors are above the age of 55 years. This is because the new generation is less motivated to march down the general practitioner route or work long hours. This is further coupled with the desire to work part-time as a work-life balance has become a priority. As a solution, telemedicine helps professionals be geographically independent, reduces commute times, creates opportunities to interact on an evolving work model, and allows flexibility in practice.
“Rising healthcare costs are challenging financing systems,” he added. “We also need to consider the behavioural change in how and when medical advice is sought,” he said. To stay abreast of trends, medical practitioners need to rethink existing processes and adopt novel ways to integrate technology into the field.
“We have to rethink how we perform medicine, which may involve letting go of old habits and accepting change. Telemedicine and other forms of technology are here to stay. It is also important to be able to use our resources in an intelligent way that involves both the physician and patient,” he concluded.
This article appears in the Daily Dose 2023. Read the full issue online today.Back to Technology