I had to share this HealthTech Zone article by Deborah Hirsch as it’s the classic perspective I hear when techies are speculating on the remote consulting opportunity:
“Generation Y may feel it’s a real pain to visit the doctor in person, preferring instead to look things up on their smartphones or just skip medical care doctor altogether. But when you’re really sick, only a doctor will do. But you still may not have to go in person. Enter telemedicine. Youths are using their mobile devices to be “examined” – or at least explain what’s troubling them medically to get prescriptions and care instructions – right over the phone. Phil Galewitz Gannett writes about a young woman who felt awful but wasn’t able to go to the doctor, and after a brief text, had a conversation with a doctor on her smartphone, got a diagnosis and a prescription, all for $45… …Clearly, this is where medicine is going. I’m not sure I like it, but it sure beats being able to read The New York Times cover to cover while waiting for a doctor”
In many ways it all reminds me of the mobile content future that was being widely predicted before Apple started taking operators out of the way and enabling content providers to offer services over the top directly to their customers. Remember all that hype about how we were going to pay mobile networks to watch videos and they would control what and when the customer would see things? The reality couldn’t be more different (we watch what we like for free on YouTube as part of our data plan).
I think we get a better idea of the big opportunities and future by not thinking of the remote care opportunity as a cheaper way of getting a prescription but as a means of opening up the potential to share and discuss digital healthcare content with an informed registered Doctor.
To help you appreciate this imagine the following scenarios:
> a patient views a really good YouTube video produced by a Harvard Medical School Professor who is a specialist in their specific disease area. It’s got some great advice but it’s 35 minutes long and it’s hard for this patient to go to their regular Doctor to discuss an online video that the Doctor has probably never seen before (remember in the real world some very good Doctors are still computer illiterate).
Imagine the value of being able at a time that suits you to just meet with a remote Doctor who is familiar with this content and your medical history?
> a father joins a patient community and reads about alternative drug options for the condition that his child has. It appears from reading the other posters (and as readers of this blog know some of these might be pharma reps, multilevel sales prof, computers, etc) that it would be best for their child to change to an alternative medication so Dad books an appointment with his pediatrician and tries to explain in a consult room why he’d like to try a new medication. Now let’s suppose the pediatrician knows all about this alternative but there are X, Y and Z reasons why it is unsuitable for this particular child. Dad’s now got a bit of egg on his face and from now on the relationship is changed because despite Dad’s best efforts at apologising he’s just directly questioned the ethics and skills of a very busy caring professional.
Imagine the value of being able to just share the link to this patient community thread with an independent Doctor and then having a discussion with them to learn more about it instead of making that expensive appointment with your pediatrician?