Why Telemedicine’s Time Has Finally Come

GUEST POST WRITTEN BY Skip Fleshman
Partner, Asset Management Ventures

illustration with smartphone for telehealth, tele healthTelemedicine may just be the biggest trend in digital health in 2015. As a partner focused on digital health investments at venture capital firm AMV, I spend a lot of time crisscrossing the country chatting with leading healthcare providers and insurers about their technology needs. By far the area they are most interested in is telemedicine. For hospitals, expanding telemedicine is a way to cut costs while providing consumers with the convenience they crave. But the idea has been around for a while so why now?

For one, the technology around virtual consultations has finally matured to the point where doctors can offer a good experience. As Andrew Watson, Chief Medical Director of Telemedicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, puts it “Telemedicine is moving like lightning. We’re able to do so much more than before.” Faster Internet connections and better software facilitate far smoother video chatting than in days past. With ubiquitous mobile devices, people can now access consultations from anywhere. And the advent of electronic health records has certainly increased the ease of going digital.

Additionally, telemedicine has expanded to include asynchronous messaging, which patients are increasingly more comfortable using and which truly allows doctors to better utilize their time. A single doctor can now advise many patients on routine issues, freeing up more time to focus in-person on trickier cases.

Most importantly, there is demand to harness the capabilities of these technological innovations. In the last few years, more and more patients have increasingly looked to retail pharmacies in their neighborhoods for routine healthcare services because it’s more convenient than visiting their doctor. The logical next step is that they won’t have to leave their homes at all.

At first, it seems that this convenience would appeal mostly to younger patients, who expect to be able to access services on the Internet, and it does. But the area where it will have the most impact may well be with older populations. Dr. Steve Ommen Associate Dean at the Center for Connected Care at the Mayo Clinic expects older patients to be enthusiastic adopters. “The fastest-growing demographic for social media is the 60+ group. They are not technology-averse and they have the greatest mobility challenge in terms of getting to a doctor. A telemedicine solution may be exactly what they need.”

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