Telemedicine has its limits. There will never be a completely virtual replacement for in-person visits and care.
Where that limit really is, though, I don't know. I find I hear about more and more unbelievable telemedicine programs every day. The most recent? A tele-ICU program that actually seems to be working.
Honestly, I'm not positive whether this program is ultimately "good medicine" or whether it's a shortcut that shouldn't be taken. But I do think that the very extremeness of the the program gives us some insights about telemedicine and medical collaboration more broadly (not all of which are positive.)
Recently, Lou Silverman of the telemedicine company Advanced ICU Care sat down with Fierce Healthcare to share thoughts about his program and about telemedicine more generally.
And these are 5 insights about telemedicine and telehealth that that came out of that conversation:
- Good care is what matters -- not whether it has "tele" in front of it.
We've always said that if you put the individual patient first, the means for caring for them will follow. For instance, you get a telemedicine consult via iClickCare because the patient's case demands it -- not because it's routine. As Mr. Silverman says, "The industry has done itself a disservice by continuing to imply that 'health' is distinct from 'telehealth' or that 'medicine' is distinguishable from 'telemedicine.' My view is that we are all part of a singular ecosystem with uniform goals and a unified vision around improving care for patients and delivering the care where and when it is needed in a manner that is both clinically and cost effective."
- Medical collaboration gives us the best answer, regardless of who contributed it.
Most people in medicine are altruistic; but egos can also creep in. That's why Mr. Silverman's reminder about team collaboration is crucial: "Success is achieved by the team, that performance counts and politics do not. Our attitude is that the best answer always wins. Period. It doesn’t matter who had the idea or how we got there."
- Expensive technology does not make a program "important."
We've had hospitals turn down iClickCare because it doesn't require any expensive hardware -- it's shocking how much people connect expense, novelty, and quality. But Mr. Silverman is right: "Great healthcare delivery is a fusion of data, expertise, experience and empathy. Viewing technology as a facilitator—and not a shiny new toy unto itself—is also an important part of the mindset. Healthcare is about people helping people. Twenty-first century healthcare is about helping the most people possible achieve outcomes that they did not think were possible."
- Broad telemedicine adoption is on its way.
It's so heartening to know that telemedicine is finally finding broad support. "Today, there are very favorable tailwinds regarding government policy in telemedicine. Individual states and the federal government are making tangible progress in advancing telemedicine initiatives," Lou Silverman confirms.
- Just because something is possible, doesn't mean it's desirable.
The fact that a tele-ICU program is even possible is reflective of just what an amazing time we live in. That said, the fact that it's possible doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way to provide care. The truth is that I am not completely familiar with the realities of this program. But I do think it's crucial to always look beyond ROI to what makes an impact on the patient.
Telemedicine is an exciting and important tool. But as the insights above illustrate -- it's not an end unto itself. It's about finding the best tool for the best care. And that's for each provider and hospital to decide.
Curious about using telemedicine for medical collaboration in your setting? You can get started here.