Yesterday, I was flipping through a magazine (it turned out to be the megalith O, The Oprah Magazine) and was surprised to see a several-page, full-color feature on telemedicine.
Even 5 years ago, but certainly 20 years ago when we first started ClickCare, telemedicine was not in Oprah Magazine. No one knew what it was, no one had a digital camera (much less a smart phone), and even the word telemedicine seemed obscure, foreign, and a little threatening.
We've come a little way since then and we've got a long way to go. The article in Oprah shows that telemedicine has become more known and more recognized. But my prediction is that eventually, telemedicine is no longer going to be a category of care -- just as today, "telephone" is not a category of friendship, but is rather a means with which to be a good friend.
With services like Doctor on Demand, more people feel that they know, not just what telemedicine is, but that they might engage with it. Which is great. And is one step toward telemedince being one fully-accepted tool of many.
But I also think there is a downside to this kind of popularization -- even Oprah-ization -- of telemedicine. And that is that the common understanding is the lowest common denominator of what telemedicine can be and do.
For instance, this article made the assumption that telemedicine is a patient-to-doctor substitute for a regular visit. And as you know, we are passionate proponents of a model of telemedicine that is about re-humanizing healthcare by using technology for healthcare collaboration. For us, the key opportunity is thoughtful provider-to-provider telemedicine -- not just poor substitutes for an in-person visit.
Why does all this matter? We believe it matters because we have colleagues across the country who are pioneering new ways to provider excellent medical care. And we want to ensure that the options available to them are not, by popular understanding, boiled down to a few oversimplified choices.
We applaud the efforts of Oprah magazine to cover telemedicine. And we laud companies like Doctor on Demand for experimenting and innovating in the field. We also want to recognize the hundreds of other options and initiatives that may not be covered in the next issue of O.
PS - an interesting aside is that this blog's editor (and my daughter) was featured in O a few years back. She's on to a business called Wholesale In a Box but we think of the magazine with fondness!