ClickCare Café

When Telehealth Monitoring Takes the Place of Medical Collaboration

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 @ 06:01 AM

tim-bish-171738.jpgOne of ClickCare’s founders is a pediatrician.

And as a pediatrician, she’s no stranger to the obsession that new parents have over their babies.

Sometimes in her practice, it seemed that the more educated or well-off a parent, the more bizarre their parenting approach would be. Now called “helicopter parenting,” the excessive hovering and worrying that many parents show is nothing new.

A recent article showed that technology can certainly exacerbate a natural tendency, however. The New York Times looks at extreme baby monitoring gadgets. Whether it’s a sock that measures oxygen levels or a temperature indicator to tell you if your baby’s blanket has slipped, there are more gadgets than ever to allow parents to track babies continuously, night and day.

These devices are likely unnecessary and even potentially harmful in terms of the family dynamic. Dr. Michael Yaker of Westside Pediatrics in Manhattan and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says, “In general, do the vital signs of healthy babies need to be monitored regularly? Absolutely not… If your baby needs to be on a monitor regularly tracking vital signs, your baby is likely not ready to be discharged from the hospital.”

The article asks the valuable question: can this information be applied in a meaningful way, or is it noise? Is the information gathered from these monitors a) accurate and b) actionable? 

Similarly, the telehealth monitoring boom has meant that the most publicized and well-funded projects in the telehealth space are those that gather a lot of information using hardware devices. The allure of 24/7 data gathering and always-accessible videoconferencing is seemingly hard to resist.

In either, the case of excessive focus on telehealth monitoring or the case of the extreme baby monitoring, I believe that there is a dynamic in which fear is being capitalized on to sell quick fixes. Rather than asking what is truly good for the baby and the family, the monitoring is providing a few moments of salve for panic and worry. Similarly, expensive telehealth monitoring programs sound impressive but may not ultimately improve outcomes significantly or take the whole patient into account. Telehealth monitoring in conjunction with videoconferencing isn't really taking the whole system into account, either. If they were, they would be thoughtful about allowing asynchronous consults. They would enable medical collaboration. They would facilitate real human medical providers talking with each other about patients. They would engage providers in considering the whole picture, rather than just a few data points.

Ultimately, we believe that medical collaboration, enabled by an inexpensive and asynchronous tool like Hybrid Store-and-Forward® telemedicine, is the best tool available to truly improve medicine. We believe it's good medicine to be skeptical about whether gathering more data is always best: is it accurate? is it actionable? is it meaningful?

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Tags: medical collaboration, telehealth

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