Why isn’t Telehealth more fun and exciting?

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I was recently challenged about the work we have been doing and investing in Telemedicine at our institution. While technology and new innovations were exciting to this person, they asked very candidly ‘why don’t I find telehealth exciting?’ Meaning why does it not excite like other types of technological advances, devices and apps?

While I clearly spend most of my job working within this space, it’s a great question. Why does it not seem exciting? In the world of digital health where we are inundated with new apps, devices and features promising to change the entire healthscape and create something we can barely envision, telemedicine seems like the boring sibling.

Whether it is as sexy as the digital health solutions we constantly come across is of course irrelevant. Consider the following:

  • Telemedicine is a care delivery model, using video or images to be able to take care of patients everywhere.
  • Exciting changes do not always mean helpful and necessary. Many cool ideas will not be adopted for various reasons, but some because they were not validated and didn’t fill a current need.

The NQF measures, while geared toward Telemedicine, can also apply to Digital Health in general as a though exercise on what is needed.

  • Costs
    • Will this cost less/lead to cost efficiency for healthcare systems, providers and patients?
  • Effectiveness
    • Will this lead to improved quality of care?
    • Has the need been explored and found to be necessary?
  • Access
    • Will this improve access so more patients get quality care?
    • Does this lead to specific patients and diseases to get better quality of care?
  • Experience
    • Will patients find it useful, easy to use and be satisfied with their care?
    • Will providers want to use it and find it helpful for their practice?

If these questions aren’t being considered, it doesn’t matter how pretty or exciting the solution is.

This brings me to Telemedicine, which is in the early adopter stages and forced to validate those questions. With labor, research, trials and slow moving demonstrations to get patients and providers to use them, proving quality takes time. The hard work going into proving this will never seem interesting at a high level — it’s tedious, but necessary.

To change the way we look at the world and to change healthcare isn’t going to be by having thousands of repetitive new ideas, it’ll be by proving that they work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Aditi Joshi is an Emergency Medicine Physician who has worked in Telemedicine for over five years, beginning at a startup and moving onto an academic institution. She is the current Medical Director of JeffConnect, part of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Telehealth program. She is particularly interested in the issues of patient access and engagement, provider education and fostering international collaboration.

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