Inaugural telehealth symposium brings researchers together to discuss burgeoning technology

On May 9, Marquette’s Telehealth Accelerator hosted its first telehealth symposium, entitled “Looking Around the Corner in Telehealth: Application, Research, Investment.” 

This conference brought together a multidisciplinary panel that looked at telehealth through the lens of the clinician, the startup investor, the researcher and the health systems leader. Jonathan Fritz, general partner in the Healthcare Innovation Fund, moderated the panel, which included the following people: 

  • Brad Crotty, MD, MPH, Chief Digital Officer, Froedtert Health; President, Inception Health 
  • Lisa Grabert, MPH, Visiting Professor of Research, Marquette University 
  • Mary Astor Gomez, CPNP, RN, MSN, Marquette College of Nursing, class of 1982, Clinical Lead, Summus Global, Inc. 
  • Brad Kruger, MEd, MBA, Enterprise Vice President of Patient Experience at Advocate Health 

Topics included the impact of the pandemic on telehealth expansion, innovative telehealth solutions emerging from startup companies, and how telehealth services and telehealth research can improve patient care. 

“We were delighted with the in-depth, thought-provoking conversations that happened at this conference,” said Dr. Kathryn Rapala, director of the Telehealth Accelerator Grant. “Telehealth has a lot of use cases across multiple disciplines, and we wanted to bring together a diverse, accomplished panel to talk about how we might apply telehealth to further our goals.” 
PATIENT CARE: Crotty asked an essential question: does it make sense to require patients who are not feeling well to travel to their healthcare provider and sit in a waiting room together with other ill patients? Kruger shared that Advocate Health saw a fifty-fold increase in telehealth visits during the pandemic, with workflows that have begun to mirror the process for in-person visits. 

“Now is the perfect time to redesign the virtual model to create a compassionate, connected, efficient virtual experience,” Kruger said. 

Gomez, who provides second opinions through telehealth, found value in the technology when her husband was undergoing cancer treatments. Although he was given only two years to live when diagnosed, Gomez’s husband was able to live for four years thanks in part to telehealth connecting him to specialists and opportunities to participate in clinical trials. 

INVESTMENT: Grabert said that an uncertain regulatory environment will inhibit telehealth growth. For publicly traded organizations, this uncertainty may translate into about a 20 percent lower telehealth investment and development portfolio.  

RESEARCH: The pandemic-driven expansion of telehealth, which provided coverage for remote health services, created the potential for a “large-scale clinical trial for telehealth,” per Kruger. He noted that future research has the potential to significantly enhance patient care and accessibility.