Not Telemedicine!

Just MEDICINE. Let’s call it what it is. Simply Medicine.

by trauma surgeon Dr. Rafael Grossmann

 

________ (Blank) is a term that we use to refer to a way of communication between parties in the healthcare dynamic.

Patients, Doctors, Physician Assistants, Nurses, in fact, any medical provider can interact and engage with each other in order to deal with a medical issue.

It is not a new technology. It was not developed with the purpose of improving communication and connectivity specifically among healthcare providers, but someone had the clever idea to use it for that end, and since then, it has become an important trend.

It makes things easier, faster, more efficient. It certainly cut costs, since communication happens, when possible and appropriate, at a distance, instead of in-person, hence saving time, miles, gas, money, etc. Its use and benefits are really intuitive. Why would you have to drive, ride or walk any distance to talk to your provider, if you can solve the problem by using this technology.

It is known that about 80% of medical office visits do not require physical contact, and it could be even higher for certain specialties.

Its drawbacks, risks and potential disadvantages are also fairly clear. For instance, both end-users each, do need a device and the infrastructure to to be able to engage. There’s a cost to the system, but that is the case with everything, and technology does eventually get less expensive as it evolves. There’s the feared risk that someone with ill intentions might intercept the interaction, “hack” it, and access personal, private and sensitive data about the patient. That’s the reason that it is ruled by the HIPAA regulation, like anything in medicine.

Another problem is that most of the “visits” performed using this channel, might not be “paid” or reimbursed as well as a physical encounter, and that might be an important reason to why medical practices do not routinely embrace this channel of communication.

So, this is some “food for thought”. Time to fill the _____(Blank) .

You may write TELEPHONE. You might want to use TELEMEDICINE. The fact is that, they are not different. They both involve the application of technology to improve what we do in medicine. At the beginning of the phone industry, we had to go thru an operator, a switchboard.

Then, as the device evolved, we could do it directly, from home, without intermediaries. Years went by, and the hardware improved, the sound of the voices was more clear, with no interruptions. Communication became better, easier and also cheaper.

The apparatus became nicer looking and smaller. Then, it even turned portable, for a selected few; then, almost suddenly, everyone could carry one…in their pockets.

As physicians, we frequently use the telephone to communicate with patients and consultant providers. We don’t worry that someone will try to -very easily- intercept that call and gain access to classified information.

But, when we talk about using an app that allows video calls, then everyone gets very nervous about security and privacy, and potential HIPAA violations and the expensive consequences for the user and the institution. It does not make sense to slow progress and impair connectivity. Why would we limit the interaction to just voice, when we can have real time sound & video?

Talking “Face-to-face” is much better than talking “Ear-to-Ear”!

It is not PHONEmedicine, nor TELEmedicine…Just MEDICINE.

Keep it Simple.

 

Dr. Grossman is a surgeon and medical futurist, and was the first Doctor to ever use Google Glass during live surgery.  He is a frequent speaker at national events including TEDtalks.  Learn more about Dr. Grossmann at http://www.rafaelgrossmann.com/