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 »
(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!
The PPACA known as Healthcare Reform Act in the United States is driving major change in our industry around accountability for the quality outcome of our care. It is making providers accountable for the care that is delivered with measures that will be reported by patients. As I monitor these major changes, it makes me wonder how we can really implement the critically needed change. I wonder, why is the US dead last compared to 6 other leading free world nations” in healthcare quality measures and we spend almost double per capita for healthcare than other countries according to the Commonwealth Fund (June, 2010). Many believe the concepts that have been embraced by the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) under the direction of Dr. Don Berwick, (appointed on July 7, 2010 by President Barack Obama to serve as the Administrator of the CMS) can drive change. As CMS is the largest healthcare payer in the US, (over half), they can lead a major change of this nature and have adopted the “Triple-Aim” model of evidenced based care and wellness. The aspiration goals, or the Triple Aim, is a phrase coined by Dr. Berwick and it is all about focusing on how to drive improvement so that our populations are healthier, our patients receive better care and instead of working within a volume based business model, move to one of quality and value that rewards prevention, wellness and a positive patient experience.
How can Cisco influence and enable this within our Healthcare Ecosystem?