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Telemedicine Hype Cycle and the Future of Remote Care

March 5, 2021 - by Parul Saini, Webmedy team


Telemedicine is the fastest growing sector in healthcare. Big monitors and computers are not needed - now patients get their appointment virtually with physicians using their phone and home computers. According to the survey of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions 2013, 18% of primary healthcare physicians use telemedicine for visits and consultations and is integrated with their practice management.

Telemedicine is an important key to improve access to health and care outcomes. In May 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine noted that doctors in many healthcare settings are adopting telemedicine as an approach to reach out to new patients and grow their practice and possibly advance the patient's care who historically had bad access to medical facilities. One of the articles entitled, Telemedicine: Changing the Landscape of Rural Physician Practice, presents numerous cases of how different providers, along with a psychiatrist, a dentist, a critical care physician, even a neurologist, and a family medicine doctor are using telemedicine to improve healthcare outcomes.

Over 81% of healthcare providers choose telemedicine, when requested to select all the options they plan to enhance their EHR and digital health delivery system. That is followed by 61% by mHealth apps. Telemedicine saw nearly overnight adoption with the explosion of COVID19. As the pandemic unfolded in New York we saw peak techno-utopia unfold on social spaces like Twitter. The future had finally landed, we were told, and telemedicine would transform the world. For those who had made their world around telemedicine, this was their moment. Telehealth stocks spiked.

Enter the world of Disillusionment

But something arrived on the way to paradise. Our optimism gave way to reality.

  • Loss of Revenue - We found that revenue from teleconnection is not what it is for IRL care. For hospital systems, the loss of facility fees created a gravitational pull back to in-person visits. For an industry working on slim margins, our archaic system of reimbursement prevented telemedicine from evolving as a sustainable, new way of caring or doing business.

  • The fact behind Human Caring - The craziest angle of the telemedicine spike was the way the medical community almost universally abandoned the physical exam. For a brief moment in time, doctors selected to deliver care without any physical data from the patients. But despite the honeymoon of thinking that everything in medicine could be conducted virtually, we learned that teleconnection was good for a lot of things but not everything. It was the Bonobos Effect: some things have to be done in person.

  • Asset management monitors and traces high-value capital equipment and mobile assets, such as infusion pumps and wheelchairs, completely the facility

  • Teleconnection can be hard - And then there were the difficulties that began with a video. There were the technical elements of operating with patients who couldn't figure it out. There was the adjustment to hours of human video connection ? doctors reported a level of exhaustion disproportionate to the number of patient encounters.

So what about the idea that the future had finally reached? It did appear but it just wasn't exactly embraced.

And this was because the early adoption of telemedicine occurred out of need rather than value. Because at a time of strict social isolation, teleconnection was all we had to both deliver care and keep a stream of revenue. Wide, temporary adoption was not surprising. It was a need. With that necessary move, we overplayed telemedicine's disruption of the traditional care model.

But Telemedicine Gives Value

But maybe we got ahead of ourselves. Telehealth delivers real value. It's a matter of recognizing teleconnection as one very powerful tool in the evolving care space. Not the only tool. Telemedicine plays a vital role in the areas of the large population away from hospitals. Simple checkup for people suffering from chronic disease adds tremendous value to families. It enables tighter contact and follow-up when high-touch care isn't needed. How remote care fits correctly into our model is under careful evaluation.

The past few years have been interesting and give one example of how technology confuses an industry. More interesting than this early peak of inflated expectations is the long plateau of productivity that we will understand with the telemedicine hype cycle.

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