Home > Uncategorized > Be Scared of Telemedicine, Really Scared!

Be Scared of Telemedicine, Really Scared!

I had been thinking of this title for a long time. Actually, I had been thinking about writing this post, for even longer.

The idea to get people’s attention to the reality and the future of virtual presence medicine has been going around, inside my head for many months.
I admit it and I apologize, the title was only meant to catch your attention. No matter in which “team” you are right now, patient or healthcare provider (by the way, there should be only one team !), know you have a real potential to switch sides in a “sneeze”, literally.

You should NOT be afraid, UNLESS you are a healthcare system or a hospital that haven’t realized that telemedicine or e-medicine, is already becoming a very popular way in which YOUR patients are doing healthcare transactions, or at least getting the initial medical advice; I don’t mean in a distant future, I mean today, I mean yesterday, I mean in the years to come!…And their options and choices are multiplying quickly, morphing, improving, adapting to their needs, like the free-market economy does.

You see, I’m a medical doctor, a full-time surgeon.I love technology and its potential to help us take better care of people, when used in a smart manner.

After giving a few TEDx talks in the subject ( “OK Glass: I need a surgeon http://youtu.be/fo3RsealvGI
“OK Glass”:Disrupt Healthcare Now”
http://youtu.be/DVzkw7y4_u4 ), attending ExponentialMedicine (a Singularity University program that injects its participants with the knowledge and the passion for how exponential technology can impact the future of healthcare delivery. http://exponential.singularityu.org/medicine/ ) and soon after that, performing the first ever documented surgical procedure with Google Glass
( http://t.co/W0EJQy9U8s ), I have become some sort of an “evangelist”, traveling the world as a keynote speaker, sharing the vision for e-medicine, of “how much better it could be” (or IT SHOULD BE!).
Preparing for the talks, I try to keep up with the most up-to-date information in the subject, curating the internet and healthcare social media, seeking inspiration and following brilliant colleagues and blogs like the ones of Bertalan Meskó/ @Berci, Christian Assad/ @Christianassad, John Nosta/@JohnNosta, Lucien Engelen/ @LucienEngelen, Daniel Kraft/ @Daniel_Kraft, Kevin MD, 33Charts, the 3GDoctor, etc.

Over the last year, one common trend has been the amount of new developments regarding the availability and variety of telemedicine options. I not only mean that hospitals are slowly adapting to the reality of e-visits, but that it seems that every couple of weeks there are news of a direct mobile option for a patient to get health advice in a very efficient way, over the internet; quickly, inexpensively, reliably and in most instances covered by insurance.

Who doesn’t want that? Why would you choose the less attractive option of making the appointment, waiting for the date, driving to the doctor’s office, waiting to be seen, being seen, getting a prescription (maybe), getting a follow-up appointment date, filling the prescription and then going back home (or back to work or school, which, by the way, you missed because all of the above routine) ?

This is just a brief, partial list of some of the available stand-alone telemedicine options that offer what I just described:

Curely (@CurelyMD -see http://medbonsai.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/the-future-of-healthcare-is-here-and-it-is-a-telehealth-marketplace/ ), Teledoc (Teladoc.com), Healthtap (www.healthtap.com), Memd ( http://www.memd.me ), ZocDoc (www.zocdoc.com), DoctorSpring (www.doctorspring.com) , DoctorOnDemand ( http://www.Doctorondemand.com), Better (http://recode.net/2014/04/16/better-puts-healthcare-in-your-pocket/ ) and even Google, who is rumored to be getting ready to offer a service in the Helpout platform, for patients to get medical advice in a mobile fashion thru the internet (http://www.zdnet.com/the-google-doctor-will-see-you-now-search-giant-trials-online-medical-consultations-7000034705/ ).

Imagine that you are a patient living in a rural area (or not so rural, even metropolitan), suffering from a non-emergent medical problem that does not merit a 911 call or a visit to the ED, and you are thinking  about calling your primary care provider (PCP) to get some advice on what to do. How easy would that be? How soon will you be seen? How much of a hassle will be involved? And what about if the office is really far away, or if you are home-bound because of disability or just because you don’t own a vehicle? I know you can get the picture!

The “legality of these interactions is becoming not an issue anymore, and HIPAA compliance is being addressed in all of these services, so…the argument of “privacy” concerns, is not such any more.
I truly believe, that health organizations that don’t confront this issue right now, will definitely suffer the consequences.

I think that it is imperative for them to make this modality, Telemedicine, a main pillar of their “survival” strategy (along with Finance, Community, Employees, Patients, etc.), in order to be able to keep their market share, to even increase it, but most importantly, to provide better, overall care to their patient population.

If they don’t do it NOW, they will for sure do it in a few years, BUT UNFORTUNATELY, right behind their competition!

So What I’m really telling them is: IF you want to survive,



PS. This link just came out, minutes after I published my post:


These services will virally multiply!

  1. William Reed, Pharm.D.
    October 16, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Eric Topol at Medscape recently did a One 0n One interview with Abraham Verghese from Stanford. Dr. Verghese is an advocate of “high touch, artful” (my terms) medicine, who would argue that time spent separate from direct patient contact is time poorly spent (my paraphrase). He mentions that physician time spent embracing computer friendly systems such as Epic or ICD 10 coding systems is time ill spent as these serve only to facilitate billing and not patient care. I am wondering about your approach in redressing these issues as put forth by Dr. Verghese (and others of a like mind.)


    • October 16, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Thxs. I’m very familiar with both Drs and the amazing interview. I believe both approaches are not exclusive of other both actually complementary.
      The current chaos in Healthcare, and factors like cost, deficit of providers, excessive wait times, etc., which threaten the system, would certainly benefit of a “combined” approach.


  1. October 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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