Let’s start a (Telemedicine) Revolution

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Back in 2008, when my wife and cofounder, Venessa, was doing a fellowship at the Center for Connected Health, I saw a revolution brewing. A Telemedicine revolution! Seven years later, we’re smack dab in the middle of that revolution. It is one of the most exciting times to be in health tech and at the same time one of the most frustrating. It’s exciting because we have a ton of momentum and technical capability. Just this year, for the first time, telemedicine was on the cover of both the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and Dermatology Times. This year, Teladoc, founded in 2002, went public. Clearly, there is a major uptick in both interest and use. But this is just the start and I want more! I want more because we started this company to deliver access to care for those who don’t have it and I want to make delivering that care easier for healthcare providers. The future is going to be great. I know the future of healthcare. Everyone does! Everything will be integrated and connected, devices will be truly ‘smart’, and doctors will be able to truly practice medicine instead of spending time on the phone with insurance companies or looking up ICD-10 codes.

But in order to to bridge the future, we have to deal with the present. We have to figure out how telemedicine works best in each unique clinic workflow without disrupting that workflow. We have to figure out how to keep everything integrated and updated in a fragmented IT environment. We have to figure out how we talk about telemedicine to patients to help them understand how this can be a part of their healthcare. And we have to educate our future healthcare providers on telemedicine technologies to prepare them for future practice. Here is what we can do to speed this revolution:

Health Advocates
We need to get out of our own bubbles and tweet circles and educate the people who know the least about telemedicine. We need less posts in telemedicine groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and more in mainstream health groups. For example, that psoriasis support group that is lamenting the fact that they have to travel a long-distance to see their doctor–that’s where we need to be!

Get out! Leave the laptop and spend some time in a doctor’s office. Spend a whole week if you can! Ever since my wife started medicine, our dinner conversations revolve around what happens in the clinic or hospital. You can’t build a healthcare app if you don’t understand healthcare. There are plenty of “cool” healthcare apps that will never see their first customer because they don’t make sense in the current healthcare environment, whether it is due to reimbursement difficulties or workflow challenges. We only make progress by building healthcare applications that providers find helpful and want to use.

Try it! I dare you! I know you were never trained on telemedicine during residency (even if it was just last year!!). I know it’s a change to your current workflow. I know it’s something new, but just try it. Our first physician customer had never even heard of telemedicine but was willing to give it a try. After a month of using it, he said, “Paul, this is awesome”. Worried your patients won’t like it? Well this is what a patient said just last week:

“It’s a great addition to any already awesome dermatology practice…thanks!”

Ask for it. Ask your doctor why they’re not using telemedicine. The answer might be that you’re not a good candidate for telemedicine because you’re too sick. That’s a perfectly appropriate and acceptable answer. But, “Our practice is just too busy for that right now” is not a good answer. Until you start asking your doctor to use telemedicine, I’ll keep hearing, “I’m not sure if my patients want this”. If you want convenience and access to healthcare when you need it, ask your doctor to use telemedicine.