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Telehealth Is the Future of Health Care

It took 20 years and a pandemic to make virtual health appointments a reality. The future, while it may seem scary, is innovative and full of opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced an unprecedented and rapid shift in the health care delivery model, particularly with a transition toward telehealth services. Since then, health care providers and patients have been met with the evolving challenges—and opportunities—of the modern world.  

While technology serves as an enabler, it tends to come with its own frustrations, said Terry Dover, assistant program manager for product support and digital health product management for the Department of Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization Program Management Office. 

Dover was joined on the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter Health IT Summit 2024 stage by fellow panelists Jaime Boris, Office of Health Equity for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); Taylor Hooker, San Francisco VA Medical Center; Katherine Wibberly, University of Virginia Health; Capt. Heather Dimeris, director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Col. Sharon Rosser, U.S. Army Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center.

A trending topic among most speakers throughout the event was the need for talent and skill sets necessary for medical care jobs. This is where innovation and technology play a significant role in filling in the gaps. However, keeping technology simple and accessible to all is key. 

It’s important to keep disparate groups in mind, Capt. Dimeris noted. Technology must meet the patient where they are, rather than causing hurdles. 

Additionally, mistrust in technology has created obstacles in the evolution of health care. Empowering users to make changes—a fear factor for most—is an integral part of facing the future. 

For Dover, who is a retired Army Medical Service Corps officer, today’s technology could have played a significant role in medical staff shortages in Iraq. “We don’t have enough skillsets everywhere we need all the time,” he stated. 

When it comes to warfighters, Col. Rosser asks for innovation that can allow for algorithms to be automatically built into existing supplies.  

“Whatever is built needs to have a patient-centered design,” she emphasized. 

The realities of telehealth and further technological advances in health care offer immeasurable opportunities to keep everyday citizens and warfighters proactive in health and wellness. 

Today, video medical appointments have allowed for further efficiency and care from larger distances and during staff shortages. Digitized health care is the future, panelists agreed, while underlining the need for training and policy making to keep up with the technological boom.