Will integrated care be a happy by-product of telehealth?

Integrated care remains an enigma across most of Europe despite the best (expensive) efforts of some – the UK’s NHS infamously abandoned IT system cost £10bn alone (€11.5bn) in 2013. With the increasing adoption of telehealth, could this be about to change?

Digital consultations facilitate easier meetings between patients and doctors – we all know that. But they can go beyond that initial purpose and automatically gather the data which is essential for building integrated care systems and electronic medical records. Increasingly powerful AI-powered chatbots can also collect and store patient medical histories that multiple providers can access.

Take what Sweden-based Doctrin is looking to do in the UK market, as Healthcare Europa exclusively reveals in this week’s edition. CEO Magnus Liungman tells us that it is in talks with a couple of integrated care systems – regions in the UK where the NHS, local government departments and other local stakeholders take collective responsibility for managing resources – to digitalise the whole patient journey from primary to secondary to psychiatry to community care. It is patients with needs in these multiple areas who are most likely to benefit from having an electronic health record.

Does this help create integrated care systems? There are hurdles. Groups like Doctrin or rival KRY will have to be able to implement their digital platforms across multiple care agencies or be willing to share the data with other care stakeholders. It is interesting to note that, to this end, video consultations could ultimately prove less successful in gathering data than well-written chatbots. And recent changes to the way data must be handled or would need to be anonymised created its own challenges.

But this is an opportunity. The automatic digitalisation of patient-doctor communications is just the first step toward creating electronic patient records. One consultant tells us that data from wearables will also be invaluable, and an investor has said that he hopes genome sequences will one day be included in AI-powered symptom checkers. All of these can be added to a patient’s electronic record.

Our Analysis: We think that while integrated care may start off as an unintentional opportunity for many telehealth providers , as the market increasingly grows beyond primary care and the data stacks up it will become a key focus. KRY and Babylon are already offering psychiatric consultations and telehealth companies like Medicheck exist for patients with chronic conditions to see specialist doctors remotely. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Rachel Lewis or call 0207 183 3779.