Telemedicine and Consumer Directed Health Care: How do we get there from here?

Monday morning, I had the pleasure of delivering the Kenneth Bird Annual Distinguished Lecture at the 11th annual meeting of the American Telemedicine Association in San Diego.  The theme of my presentation followed a short article I wrote that is posted on the Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences site called "5 Healthcare Trends to Watch".  Today, I'm writing this Blog from the Consumer Directed Health Care Conference and Expo in San Francisco where I have the honor of serving as a conference co-chair and moderating or speaking on several panel discussions about the role of information technologies in healthcare.

In both conferences, you can literally feel the winds of change blowing, and they are reaching gale force.  Telemedicine is no longer limited to academic medical centers, the military or rural health.  The technology, hardware, and software has become commoditized.  Anyone can do telemedicine, and it involves much more than establishing a audio-video link between those providing and receiving care.  It may include rich content, remote physiological monitoring, and robotics.  It is just as likely to be delivered by a television, Xbox, or Smartphone as it is a computer.   At the CDHCC, the buzz is all about consumers taking charge and how some innovative providers and payers are testing the waters on how to deliver healthcare services and products the market is demanding.

I was asked during one of my panel discussions what technologies are needed to get us over the tipping point.  My answer was that it isn't technology that is lacking.  We have all the technology we need.  It is a healthcare system built on perverse incentives.  It is a system that all too often punishes those who innovate and rewards those who maintain the status quo.  It is a federal bureaucracy that says it wants change, but has totally inflexible payment systems that prevent true breakthroughs in the provision of care using the technologies we have at hand.

Consumers (and employers) must rise up and demand more choice and changes to the public and private funding mechanisms that continue to inhibit breakthrough thinking in the delivery of care.  We have the technology.  Do we have the will?

Bill Crounse, MD    Healthcare Industry Director    Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences

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