Why 1 Harvard physician is embracing virtual care — and patients' self-management

As artificial intelligence advances and more patients use remote and on-demand care options, virtual care is here to stay.

Jagmeet Singh, MD, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School, both based in Boston, joined Becker's to discuss what medical trends on the horizon he is most excited about.

Question: What healthcare trends are you most excited about?

Dr. Jagmeet Singh: I think one of the things I'm really excited about in healthcare is remote monitoring of patients and being able to manage patients from a distance — where they are and where they'd like to be seen from and managed from, rather than having to work their way all the way into the hospitals for every little thing.

That's one aspect. To put it in a very concrete way,  I would say I'm really excited about virtual care that is sensor aided, that is powered by predictive analytics that now has some sustainable workflows that will lead to better clinical outcomes. That kind of encompasses all the different aspects of care that I'm really excited about: virtual care sensors, because they're changing how we administer and look after patients, predictive analytics, because that's the artificial intelligence-based component of care.

All of this has to be integrated into our clinical workflows to translate into better outcomes. I'm interested in care that is smart enough where patients can be managed from a distance but also allows patients to manage themselves. I think that trend toward self-management, like diabetes, for example, or hypertension, where patients are able to self-manage themselves at home, certainly is the future of how care needs to be and will be delivered. That's the only way healthcare will be sustainable in the long term. 

Q: Is virtual care a better fit for certain specialties than others? 

JS: I would say more than specialties. I think there are certain use cases that are amenable to virtual care within a specialty. I wouldn't say that the entire specialty of rheumatology would work with virtual-based care only, but there may be certain disease subsets, like skin allergies or skin diseases, that can be quickly seen using an AI assistant app or virtual care that can help make a diagnosis, rather than the patient having to come in all the time. But if you have a systemic disorder, like arthritic pain, that may require an in-person evaluation. I would say that there are certain use cases in every specialty that are amenable to virtual care, but it should not be a one-size-fits-all solution.

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