Galloping technological change, encouraging economics, new partnerships, and rising consumer acceptance together poise telemedicine for widespread global adoption, according to Cisco and other experts at the 17th American Telemedicine Association meeting this week in San Jose.
“These next couple of years, I think, are critical,” said Dr. Danny Sands, Cisco Director of Medical Informatics. “I think this is the time. This is our time.” Read More »
“What I often feel today is, nurses nurse technology rather than nurse their patients.”
So says Cisco Chief Nursing Officer Curtis Dikes, a registered nurse in his own right, whose job at Cisco is to change that.
At the American Telemedicine Association’s 2012 meeting in San Jose, Dikes was kept fully engaged by attendees newly curious about Cisco technology and the customer-oriented thinking behind it.
“It’s not about the technology,” said Dikes during a break. “Technology is a conduit – part of the equation that enables a better care process.”
Do nurses have unique workflow requirements that warrant special attention? Yes, said Dikes, past president of the American Nursing Informatics Association. “Nursing has its specifics just like medicine.”
Thousands of ATA 2012 attendees heard Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak wax enthusiastic about the future of telemedicine in his Tuesday morning keynote event.
“I love the fact that telemedicine fits into this category of people trying to do good things for those that don’t have access. I love that,” said Wozniak to applause.
”It’s kind of cool for a general doctor to get in touch with a couple of specialists this way.”
In a wide-ranging conversation onstage with ATA President Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., Wozniak predicted that computer intelligence will soon rival human intelligence – with profound implications for health care.
“Computers are getting closer to acting like humans. Your phone knows when you’re touching it now… and I think eventually they will be listening and looking with their cameras and microphones… You can make devices that see better than a human.
“Once a computer gets smarter than a human, then the company that uses computers will come out ahead economically.” Read More »
Sharon Gibson, Cisco’s Director of Business Transformation and Healthcare, told how Cisco developed its employee health center, LifeConnections, at a Monday morning ATA panel on “Retail and Employer-Based Healthcare Using Telemedicine.”
Although telemedicine became an aspect of LifeConnections in September 2010, two years after the first LifeConnections center opened in San Jose, it’s become a key part of the proposition. It helps the 80 domestic Cisco campuses feel they’re getting benefits comparable to those delivered at headquarters. Overseas – particularly at the Cisco Bangalore campus, site of our second LifeConnections center, where roads and traffic pose a 24/7 challenge – telemedicine simply enables better patient access to health care.
Throughout the Cisco community, engaging employees is the prime goal for LifeConnections. The initial intent was to use health care to enhance employee productivity among a young workforce not always focused on the subject. Most health care discussions in the US revolve around cost-cutting and efficiency, which often means less access for patients, Cisco took the opposite view with LifeConnections – that more access, and more care opportunities, would lead to positive cost results going forward.
It’s worked – and telemedicine is a key part of the equation. Insights Gibson shared at ATA:
Screenings, events and provider enthusiasm are key to driving adoption over time.
Different approaches suit different geographies. In Bangalore Cisco will soon have five satellite offices using telemedicine, all open 24 hours a day, six days a week.
There’s opportunity to deliver specialty care using telemedicine technology. Working with Stanford University, LifeConnections has just launched our first teledermatology clinic.
More larger organizations are getting into corporate health care with on-site clinics – you need about 1,000 employees to make it a good investment – but Cisco is proud to be blazing trails and and winning high employee satisfaction in the process.
There’s evidence that others see lessons in LifeConnections. A co-panelist of Gibson’s pointed out that US government employees who fall ill on duty overseas are often flown home or to regional health centers at great taxpayer expense and productivity loss. A telemedicine solution could mitigate much of that. “What you’re doing at Cisco, Sharon,” he said, “needs to be shared with the State Department and the Commerce Department.”
It’s good to hear Cisco’s work is influencing others. Cisco, too, feels we have plenty to share about telemedicine.
(San Jose, April 30) ATA 2012 opened Monday morning with a survey of the scope and potential of the telemedicine market moderated by Linda Boles, Cisco Chief Strategist, US Public Sector Healthcare Innovation. The expert panel played to a packed ballroom at the San Jose Convention Center complex.
Key insight number one: telemedicine technology is maturing fast, but we’re only beginning to see its many applications – and new use cases have the capacity to surprise. Cisco, for example, expected growth in pediatric and correctional healthcare, but not the adoption we’ve seen in continuing medical education and corporate communications.
Key insight number two: it’s a consumer-led transformation. Patients, the panel heard, take directions and do as they’re told. Consumers have choice and power. That suggests all of healthcare is on the brink of dramatic, structural transformation.
Boles’ co-panelist Harry Kim, Hewlett-Packard’s senior director, worldwide healthcare, estimated the global market opportunity at a conservative $10 billion. But he cautioned that many analysts’ numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, because so many are based on a “rear-view mirror” view of the market. Kim said up to 40 percent of today’s medical encounters can be done more efficiently using telemedicine technology, but less than one percent actually are.
Another panelist, Jasper zu Putlitz MD, president of Bosch Health Care, called it a “confusing market” that sometimes frustrates adoption – precisely because the opportunities and forecasts are so disparate. “I am looking at telehealth on one side then telecare on the other. Then there’s teleconsultation, where you connect providers. With telehealth we’re at the end of the beginning. But it’s really, really promising.”
The panel agreed that:
• The industry doesn’t have a technology problem – but challenges adopting and sustaining it.
• Telehealth solutions have to be embedded into health care system redesign. It cannot be laid on top of existing processes.
• It’s not a US-centric discussion. In the US the focus is always on cost and efficiency; elsewhere the priority tends to be patient access. Look for instructive telemedicine innovations to bubble up from smaller “laboratory countries” whose models differ from ours.
Boles agreed with the panel that healthcare information exchanges overseas run far ahead of those we see in the States.
Harry Kim used an airplane metaphor: we can all build excellent airplanes, he said, but until airports and air traffic controllers are built as well – and a reliable operating environment results – it is harder for airlines to prosper. (After the Wright brothers, he added, the needed infrastructure took decades longer!)
Two last, intriguing points from the morning.
One, consumers are expected to create demand for “anytime, anywhere” healthcare delivered from many sources via many channels – including mobile. The coming continuum of health care delivery models, enabled by telehealth technology, will challenge the status quo understanding of the system.
Two, the industry has to “follow outcomes.” Which technologies change outcomes? The better we understand what leads to better health care outcomes, the bigger the flood of new operating models that answer that question.
Boles hosted a concise, invigorating morning. In a Q-and-A session she was asked if the ATA itself can help promote understanding that leads to more telemedicine adoption. Boles replied that “I think you’ll see a lot of blog coverage coming out of ATA 2012” – starting here!