Providers look to take telemedicine to the next level

Telemedicine is becoming more mainstream, and now healthcare providers, payers and other industry professionals look to the take technology even further.

Currently, telehealth visits are most often done through videoconferencing, but one physician doesn't think that goes far enough.

Jay Parkinson, M.D., tells Wired that a visit via video isn't any better than one in person. His company, Sherpaa, is taking telemedicine mobile by having patients engage with a team of doctors though text messages and apps.

One reason for this change, Parkinson adds, is that video is an awkward format for an appointment.

"Asynchronous, text-based communication is an ingrained behavior in humans," Parkinson says in the article. "Video visits are by no means an ingrained behavior."

Parkinson may have a point. In a study published last month in Telemedicine and e-Health, of the 263 patients responding, only 20 percent said they had prior experience with a video call. In addition, those who did not have videoconferencing experience overwhelmingly said they would prefer to meet with their provider face-to-face.

Some in the industry realize these possible barriers and are putting more thought into how to make a video appointment feel professional, and help patients feel comfortable, according to Wired.

American Well, for example, is trying to make the communication more elegant. Katie Ruigh, vice president of product at the company, says in the article that American Well wants the encounter to feel the same as an in-person visit. American Well is creating a "webside manner," featuring a formal setting, stethoscope and white doctor's coat.

Parkinson touts the appeal of mobile-based interaction because it allows for more continuous back a forth—you notice something wrong, send a message immediately while it's on your mind.

But Ruigh says she sees video appointments remaining the foundation, because they allow for a face-to-face interaction, even if it's through a screen. Text messaging, on the other hand, can isolate the patient from the doctor, the article adds.

No matter the tool used to connect patients and doctors, there is growing interest in telehealth from consumers. Even Capitol Hill is realizing the positive impact the practice can have on the industry and on improving patient care.

To learn more:
- read the Wired article