Telemedicine of the Future

by Natasha | April 4, 2016

Telemedicine is the fastest growing segment in health care. It makes up nearly one-fourth of the health IT market, which was valued at $15.6 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase to nearly $20 billion by 2019 with a compound annual growth rate of 4.8%. Such amazing growth was only seen once before in my lifetime — and that was when all pharma companies jumped into producing anti – AIDS medication. We all know how that ended. Hint: not very well since billions were spent and AIDS is still not cured.

For anything to be able to grow  that fast, a simple condition must be met: demand (e.g. sick patients) must exceed supply (e.g. primary care physicians). Using this premise, a couple hundred startups jumped in, offering what they believe will solve the problem: faster access to a doctor through a video conference solution.

This approach, although effective in some cases, often causes the adverse effect in mainstream medicine. It reminds me of a scene in good old movie “As good as it gets”:

[enters his psychiatrist’s office]
Melvin Udall: Hi.
[shuts the door, turns and yells]
Melvin Udall: Help!
Dr. Green: If you want to see me, you will not do this. You will make an appointment.
Melvin Udall: Dr. Green, how can you diagnose someone as an obsessive compulsive disorder, and then act like I have some choice about barging in here?

Giving patients unlimited access to their physician, anytime and anywhere, will not solve the problem of overworked physicians and under-treated patients. In fact, it will create a new set of problems such as security (check out this movie on youtube about hacking youtube and vimeo private videos – same can be done with any WebRTC solutions and a bit of computer science knowledge), inefficiency (doctors currently spend 2 hours each day on EMR alerts — patients waiting for virtual visits will, at least, double this time), and, most importantly, increased risk of error in clinical services because nothing can sufficiently substitute a physical exam.

To avoid these problems, health care organizations must think “better access” instead of “more access”. This includes focusing on physician efficiency as much as on patient convenience, using technology to narrow the scope of what a patient can report so that only common and simple cases get treated virtually and more complex once are served in the appropriate care settings, and leveraging alternative staff such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners more effectively.

In one of my favorite Ted talks last year, Sir Ken Robinson tells a funny story about a 6-year-old girl drawing a bizarre picture. Fascinated, her teacher asks her:”What is this you are drawing?”.  “God”, answers the little girl. “But no one knows how the god looks”, the teacher reasons. “Well, they will in a minute”, the girl responds.

So, if you want to see how the future of telemedicine will look like, and also how your immediate needs can be addressed, please schedule a demo with us. We live to impress!

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