The generation that’s coming of age with Uber, Snapchat, and Zappos is not going to settle for the traditional way health care has been delivered. Health care is slowly being transformed, and the way young people seek and receive health care in the future is going to be radically different than the model that has been in place for centuries. Millennials will demand to schedule services online, communicate with a physician 24/7, be treated as savvy consumers, and see the same information their doctor sees. And, they won’t tolerate breakdowns in communication among their physicians. I can’t think of a more exciting time for innovative thinkers to make health care more accessible, more reliable, and more responsive.
Phenomenal advances in telecommunications, information technology, medical science, and biomedical engineering are bringing extraordinary opportunities for improvements in the quality and affordability of health care that couldn’t even have been contemplated a few decades ago. But as the range of such advances expands geometrically, it is ever more critical that we don’t lose sight of the human element and the fundamental need to put the patient at the center of everything we do.
Telemedicine, in particular, presents a huge opportunity to leverage technology to improve care and the health care experience. Generally, telemedicine can be available in two ways. The first is through a patient’s primary care physician — including family, internal, general, and pediatric medicine — as long as the primary care physician offers telemedicine visits through a secure video connection that protects the privacy of the patient. This not only gives primary care physicians the ability to communicate via video in the event that an in-person visit is not possible, it also offers a more cost-effective option for the patient other than visiting an emergency room, retail health clinic, or urgent care center.
The second option is through a national telemedicine service that connects patients to licensed and board-certified primary care physicians all over the country via a HIPAA-secure video, telephone, or mobile app 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. After the appointment, patients may request a copy of the medical record from the telemedicine consultation to share with their local physician.
But this is just the beginning. We fully expect the use of telemedicine to expand as the technology improves and doctors and patients become more comfortable using it. And, as protocols for medical care increasingly include the use of telemedicine to complement in-person care, we will see it facilitating more patient-physician interaction, which will lead to greater patient satisfaction.
The broader category of telehealth opens doors even wider. Health systems are just beginning to scratch the surface in leveraging the possibilities for virtual integration across hospitals and the ability to deliver specialized care remotely. Entrepreneurs around the world are tackling telehealth’s major challenges, such as: How do we more efficiently and effectively augment diagnostic testing? What are the better, quicker, and easier ways to provide quality care?
We are clearly living in a remarkable period when medical discoveries and breakthroughs in telecommunications are exponentially advancing. It is very exciting!
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