Sunday, August 7, 2011

I will no longer say “turning the corner” when it comes to telemedicine

For years we talked about reaching the point when telemedicine services became self-sustaining outside of temporary grants, going from promise to reality. We have long passed the point of telemedicine being a new application. After eighteen years the corner is turned and I promise to put that phrase away. This is what I mean about the reality of telemedicine:
  • There are areas where remote health services have made a measurable difference in healthcare. At least half of the 5,000 U.S. hospitals are using teleradiology or other forms of remote imaging and the leading firm in this space, Virtual Radiologic, provided over 7 million reads last year. The Ontario Telehealth Network manages over 100,000 live physician-patient video consults a year for a variety of specialty and primary care services. The MedTrix Group provides 10-12 thousand video-based pediatric consults per month for the largest HMO plan in the Israel. The U.S. Veterans Administration is using remote health monitoring for 55,000 veterans.
  • Revenue generated from telemedicine has resulted in profits for independent service providers and is a self-sustaining business within some healthcare delivery systems. For example, Epocrates, an online and mhealth drug interaction application is used by 1.3 million health professionals including 45% of U.S. physicians and reported a first quarter profit for 2011 of $3.7 million.
  • Medical systems are integrating remote health care into the normal delivery of care. A recent survey of Washington, DC hospitals found that every hospital in the metropolitan area was using one or more telemedicine application as part of their normal delivery of health care for area residents. For example, to reduce time to catheterization , EKGs are transmitted from the ambulance to cardiologist’s cell phones at the George Washington University Hospital prior to arrival at the emergency room.

I tire of talk about needing to "prove the case." The argument that telemedicine is too new and needs more research falls away when looking at a list of a few other medical innovations that emerged around the same time or later than telemedicine (1960s-70s) and are now fully in use and reimbursed by most payer organizations including Medicare:
• Arthroscopic surgery
• CAT Scans
• Cochlear implant surgery
• Controlled drug delivery technology
• Deep-brain electrical stimulation
• Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
• Laser surgery on human corneas
• Magnetic resonance imaging
• Permanent artificial heart implants
• Soft contact lenses


  1. I could not agree more! I feel the same way with remote activity of daily living technologies, medication mgmt technologies and socialization/cognitive assist technologies. They have been tested and have been shown to work and do the job! It's time to stop speculating and start implementing!
    Thanks for your post!!!
    Laura Mitchell
    GrandCare Systems
    Combining: ADL Monitoring, Telehealth, Med Mgmt, Socialization, Video Chat, Smart Home & Internet Communications since 2005.

  2. Excellent, the reality on telemedicine solutions in USA an other developed countries should be a helper for many developing countries with fragmented health systems, that requires a telemedicine market development.
    Jorge Vèlez, MD