It’s easy to dismiss tele-health as unsuccessful – and far too many have done that. That view is simplistic, and wrong.
There are two closely-related considerations that will drive tele-health’s growth.
As with any new technology-driven service, tele-health 1.0 is deeply flawed as it is based on developers’ guesses about what will work.
Developers got some things right, and a lot of things wrong. User access to technology, internet connection speed, privacy concerns, health literacy, language and translation needs, and basic human fears and communication needs all drive adoption and usefulness. Too often we don’t think about Maria Gonzalez, the working single mother with two kids living in rural California. Everyone has a smart phone, fast and reliable internet, a high level of comfort with medical providers and excellent English skills…so…we don’t need to deeply and thoroughly think through the what-ifs.
We are learning a lot and quickly. Those who listen, seek to understand, experiment, and keep an open mind will succeed.
Second, I purposely use a hyphenated label as it encompasses all things tele-health. Diagnosis, rehab, follow-up visits, medication checks, remote surgical consults, behavioral health – all are included in “tele-health”.
And all are different, likely require somewhat different approaches, technological support, documentation capabilities, and patient experience considerations.
Recent research indicates there’s lots we can learn – and some are learning – about early use of tele-health.
There’s another factor, one which makes tele-health potentially more helpful than in-office visits.
Clinicians can view the patient’s home, worksite, environment, their kitchen, bathing facilities, and exercise equipment. They can observe their patient exercising, taking meds, measuring their blood pressure or oxygen levels. They can help care-givers learn how to change dressings, administer medications, lift and move the patient.
This is far better than sending the patient home with barely-readable instructions, perhaps written in uninterpretable language, expecting the patient will follow those instructions to the letter with no mistakes.