Telemedicine and telehealth are hot topics these days and it’s exciting to read about all the new developments and technologies that are being made available across the world. In light of this, I thought it timely to share a guest blog from James Bennett of Fruit Street Telehealth on the state of the telemedicine industry and the healthcare reform.
You’ve probably heard of telemedicine or telehealth already. Both terms refer to the use of modern communications technology, such as videoconferencing and smartphones, to facilitate patient care. It has the potential to help billions worldwide struggling to pay the costs of healthcare or unable to travel to clinics. It can benefit a variety of medical fields, but is particularly valuable when a visit to the doctor only requires answers to routine questions, a simple assessment or a follow-up appointment. Most modern phones are now capable of taking high-quality images of a questionable mole or rash, which can then be securely transmitted by an app for review by a dermatologist. This simple process can replace weeks of waiting for an appointment, and will provide the patient with an almost-immediate answer.
Healthcare reform is structured to provide improved healthcare at a lower cost. We believe the solution is not to provide a better third-party-payer system such as health insurance or government-provided insurance, but instead to allow technological development and entrepreneurship to improve the current healthcare business models through groundbreaking innovations that empower consumers, improve quality and reduce costs.
Like other disruptive services, telemedicine is running into opposition from its more traditional competitors. Take eye care as an example, where telemedicine holds great potential. Some startups can make it easier for patients to receive prescriptions by offering exams through smartphones, which are then reviewed by a licensed optometrist who provides the prescription. However, many optometrists these days make a lot of money by prescribing and selling specific brand-name versions of eye care products, and may feel threatened by this advancement in technology.
As a result, in the United States, the California State Board of Optometry recently ran a public relations campaign against a telemedicine startup, while Indiana enacted a law last year to prevent the use of online eye exams. Georgia and South Carolina have also enacted bans, and the Virginia Legislature just sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would do the same.
Whether or not this is done to safeguard patients or established businesses is up for debate (and I won’t delve deeper into that here), but it is unfortunate as telemedicine has the potential to help reduce healthcare costs and expand access to care.
Here at Fruit Street Telehealth, we see telemedicine as the way of the future, and believe denying it could have a detrimental effect on the people who need it the most. We hope medicine can be made great again by updating outdated rules that may stand in the way of modern market innovation – new and better ways to deliver healthcare are constantly being developed and we would love to see the telemedicine industry realise its full potential.
James Bennett is VP of Sales & Marketing for Fruit Street Telehealth, a telemedicine/telehealth SaaS (software as a solution) technology that is used by some of the world’s best known companies and institutions.