A Journey to Telemedicine
Not long ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about the fact that I don't have a primary care physician. It's not that I'm careless with my health, I have a bevy of doctors I see for specialized and precise needs such as my ophthalmologist and dermatologist. It's not that I don't care to be prepared for the eventuality of being ill -- I'm someone who has her entire pantry listed in Amazon Subscribe and Save to ensure garbage bags and paper towels show up at regular intervals. It's not that I don't think primary care doctors are necessary, my three year-old has never missed a well-child checkup and I respect and follow his doctor's advice.
So what's holding me back from taking the time to find an in-network general internist who I like and can occasionally see to ensure everything's working correctly on a macro level? For me, it comes down to the desire for expertise on-demand. With my rolodex of medical professionals (Who needs a dentist, an orthodontist, and a periodontist? This gal.) I figure that when I have a specific need, even if it falls in the general health category (like that time my adorable child gave me strep throat three days before I had to go to a conference out of town for work), I'll solve it when I have to.
There was a new report published recently by ASD about the emerging market around e-health solutions, technology, and infrastructure which goes into great detail about the fast-changing landscape of health technology. Already, there are established solutions like the locally based Virtuwell that are fulfilling this need and countless articles that tout the benefits of telemedicine such as reduced hospital admissions, the ability to reach patients in remote areas, and reduced overhead costs.
Personally, telemedicine appeals to me greatly. I love the idea of being able to use a service that connects me to a doctor that knows what I need help with and is prepared and able to help. That said, there are times when in-person treatment is necessary, particularly with children and other individuals who may not be able to articulate their symptoms and/or require an additional level of care that's best given in person. Indeed, questions loom as to how and to what extent telemedicine will have an impact on the physician-patient relationship, on patients' expectations of care, and on the level and type of care that is considered to be standard.
Telemedicine is a quickly growing field of science and industry that meets consumers' changing desires for fast, convenient, tailored solutions that can be completed on-demand. It will be exciting to see where these solutions evolve next and how they'll continue to grow in order to meet the needs of specific groups of patients, especially the aging Baby Boomers, as well as how telemedicine will work within governmental structures such as the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. To ensure benefits are maximized and risks are mitigated, physicians, hospitals, the healthcare industry, and the government must begin to identify and address the legal, ethical, and social implications of telemedicine today. Much to anticipate and plan for!