The novel coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed doctor-patient dynamics worldwide. On one hand, healthcare workers and doctors are tirelessly working to treat COVID patients, while on the other, elderly patients and those with chronic diseases who need routine medical check-ups are faced with increased vulnerability and the risk of contracting coronavirus during regular hospital visits. While all of this is going on, patients with milder symptoms are being encouraged to use telehealth platforms to alleviate the strain on hospital facilities. A part of the solution to all these problems is one word: telemedicine.
Here’s a look at what telemedicine is, and how Nvidia (NVDA) is supporting it as the broader digital health ecosystem.
Telemedicine is a term that was coined in the 1970s, and the WHO currently defines it as the "delivery of health care services, where patients and providers are separated by distance. Telehealth uses information and communication technologies for the exchange of information for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health professionals.”
While telehealth services have been in existence for a long time, the merits of convenience and access were never enough to bring it close to the mainstream. The coronavirus has changed that. With social distancing norms in place, virtual care visits are expected to surge beyond 1 billion in 2020.
The telehealth market in the U.S. is estimated to display a staggering seven-fold growth by 2025, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.2%. In 2020, the telehealth market is likely to experience a tsunami of growth, resulting in a year-over-year increase of 64.3%. The global telemedicine market, which was estimated at $41.4 billion in 2019, is projected to reach $155.1 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 15.1% (2019–2027).
To combat the stress on hospitals and patients, the Trump administration made many new rules and temporary regulatory waivers in March to equip its healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to the pandemic, which included approvals and facilitation of telemedicine visits. Internal analysis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showed “a weekly jump in virtual visits for CMS beneficiaries, from approximately 14,000 pre-PHE to almost 1.7 million in the last week of April. Additionally, a report by HHS shows that 43.5% of Medicare fee-for-service primary care visits were provided through telehealth in April, compared with far less than 0.1% in February before the PHE.” In August, an executive order on improving rural and telehealth access was signed.
Technology is the backbone of telemedicine; Nvidia is supporting it in multiple ways
One important aspect of telemedicine is to automatically capture key points from conversations between the patient and the doctor and save it securely as medical records into clinical systems in a structured manner. NVIDIA is working on understanding speech to automate charting for telemedicine and beyond. Nvidia is using automated speech recognition and natural language processing technology to capture, recognize, understand, and summarize key concepts and structures using state-of-the-art conversational AI models along with clinical ontologies like SNOMED-CT or ICD-10 during a patient doctor talk.
This is vital for patient care, as it paves the way for recapping conversations between the doctor and patient as a proper record. It can enable more informed decisions in the future and have the reassurance of being able to review what was discussed. A research paper “offers insight into how a medically savvy language model can potentially save time and accelerate the pace at which your doctor and the insurance carrier can provide consultation notes and process billing for the patient visit.”
Nvidia has been working on other projects which support telehealth, with many of them focused on radiology and imaging. In May, Nvidia announced new AI models to help the medical community better track, test, and treat COVID-19. These AI models, which were developed jointly with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can help researchers study the severity of COVID-19 from chest CT scans and develop new tools to better understand, measure, and detect infections. The AI models were built using the Nvidia Clara application framework for medical imaging. Nvidia also began working with NIH in 2018 on prostrate cancer.
In an environment where healthcare providers must continually find ways to improve care delivery and scalability, while ensuring continued security and regulatory compliance, Nvidia virtual GPU provides many possible solutions. The company is supporting healthcare organizations through its virtual GPU solutions to their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments.
The use of advanced technologies, such as cloud computing, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are helping build an ecosystem which can enable diagnostics, treatment, and patient-monitoring related services remotely with telemedicine at the forefront. With a backing coming from the policy makers, it can be said that telemedicine services are likely to be a more permanent feature of the healthcare delivery system from now on, and technology companies such as Nvidia will play a crucial role. While in-person visits and treatment will never go away, the adoption of telemedicine can open the gateway to basic healthcare for millions globally.
Disclaimer: The author has no position in any stocks mentioned. Investors should consider the above information not as a de facto recommendation, but as an idea for further consideration. The report has been carefully prepared, and any exclusions or errors in it are totally unintentional. The terms telehealth and telemedicine are being used interchangeably.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.