Even 20 years ago, it felt like the core practice of medicine was fairly untouched by technology. The biggest technological shift was the advent of the Electronic Health Records. And of course, we used technologies like imaging and tools every day -- but that is as far as technology extended into our practice of medicine (at least in terms of how we tended to think about it).
These days, technology is developing quickly... and its penetration into our medical practice seems to get faster every day.
I spotted several fascinating trends that are part of this quick evolution -- and are likely on their way to a doctor's office near you.
As you contemplate the trajectory of technology in medicine, there are some trends you can ignore... others that are obvious... and then there are those that are definitely coming your way -- but you may not be as aware of.
5 Fascinating Trends in Telehealth That Will Affect You Sooner or Later
- Many patients will choose not to use telehealth.
In an effort to start making money off the telehealth market, JD Power (yep, the car people) are beginning to rate telehealth programs. Interestingly, their first survey shows that many patients are deeply skeptical of using telemedicine as a replacement for their doctor's visit. According to Fierce Healthcare, about half of respondents believe telehealth quality is worse than a regular visit, and that it's less personal than a regular visit. And -- 0% of patients who rate their health as "poor" use telehealth. This resistance and mistrust (founded or not) is going to be a crucial dynamic to understand as we find the best ways to move forward with telehealth.
- Patients will lose all sense of boundaries (until we create them.)
The connectedness between doctors and their patients has evolved over time. There were the days of family doctors making house calls... there were the days of beepers and answering services... and now there are the days of messaging via patient portals. Unlike past eras, there are no natural norms, boundaries, or protocols for this messaging. As Fierce Healthcare illuminates, "There’s nothing to get in the way of a [patient's] concern and the perception and expectation the physician should be available... what’s a reasonable time for a physician to reply to a message? What’s the liability if a patient sends a clinically urgent message during the night or on the weekend? And will pediatricians soon be dealing with messages from their adolescent patients, as well as their parents?" Of course, this isn't a situation that can last forever -- eventually, we need to create boundaries and systems, even if technology doesn't. Our norms and practices will struggle to catch up to technology. But it's up to us to make them work for doctors and for patients.
- Alexa will be watching your every move.
Alexa, the "always listening" speaker powered by Amazon has some incredible skills. "She" knows if you want milk added to the shopping list... and she may be able to hear if your breathing suggests you may be having a heart attack. Kaiser Health News looked at a "gold rush" of health companies looking to innovate around using Alexa for health goals. It seems likely that Alexa -- plus similar technologies -- will play an increasing part in our telehealth monitoring landscape. So it's up to us to find ways of making this work wisely and intelligently.
Kevin Kelly, the futurist and technologist, says that there are certain inevitable trajectories or trends that technology will take. But it is up to us how we then guide and govern and use those technologies. I believe that the more quickly medicine adapts to the realities of technological change, the more we can guide that change in the best possible ways for us and for our patients.
Curious about the future of telemedicine? Get our quick guide on hybrid store-and-forward here: