Surveys Show Telemedicine’s Growing Popularity

Telemedicine has passed the tipping point. Two recent surveys of healthcare providers show that telemedicine, if not quite a mature industry, has at least achieved mainstream acceptance.

In a survey by the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM), two-thirds of respondents said that they “are either using telemedicine to provide services now, or planning to in the next few years.” That’s an impressive number considering the barriers to reimbursement that providers have to overcome. They also suggested that telemedicine is most appropriate for follow-up visits. This falls in line with the American Medical Association and Federation of State Medical Board’s more cautious guidelines regarding telemedicine policy.

telemedicine infographic

Meanwhile, law firm Foley & Lardner published a survey of provider organizations. They found that a whopping 84 percent of executives think of telemedicine as either “important” or “very important” to their organization. That represents a massive improvement on telemedicine’s acceptance over the last few years. Almost two thirds (64 percent) offer remote monitoring, while majorities provide store-and-forward services as well as “some kind of real-time interaction technology such as video visits.”

It’s interesting that the executives surveyed did not see telemedicine as a tool for higher profits or to make their organizations more competitive. Rather, “the leading response was that executives were primarily motivated by the idea of improving quality of care for patients (50 percent).”

These numbers are very positive for VSee’s future. Virtual doctor visits will continue to rise in popularity as people realize that they can save time and money. If the technology can find this much acceptance in spite of all the regulatory hurdles, just imagine how popular telemedicine will become once doctors are fully reimbursed for their services! Clearly telemedicine is an idea whose time has come.

Did Vidyo / Fuze Kill Verizon Telehealth?

Verizon telehealthFor the last few years, Verizon has been one of the titans leading the charge into the telemedicine space. Verizon had a big presence at tradeshows such as mHealth. They issued RFPs for video conference and telemedicine platforms to create their offerings, and created a huge buzz about the new Verizon telehealth products.  (In full disclosure, VSee also bid on the Verizon RFP and was told that since VSee did not connect with Cisco – it could not be picked even though Verizon liked the rest of VSee :) )

In the end, Verizon picked Fuze (formerly FuzeBox, which is Vidyo white-labeled), and now Verizon telehealth is dead.  What happened? Why did Verizon telehealth die?  Is Fuze / Vidyo to blame?

At the time, Verizon was in discussions with the largest consumer brands, and it was poised to make a big entry that would shape the telemedicine landscape. And then it fizzled.

The problem is Verizon should never have used Fuze. It didn’t make sense, since the user interface of Fuze was not optimized for healthcare, making a poor user experience. Likewise, its competitor Zoom is another video conferencing product that is great for web meetings, but which doesn’t have a user interface designed for healthcare workflows (not to mention Zoom is also not HIPAA-compliant). It would have made more sense if Verizon had worked directly with Vidyo.  Then it would allow Verizon to craft a great consumer experience for healthcare.

However, with telemedicine and telehealth at the inflection point for mass marketing, I am sure Verizon will give this another try soon :)

The Two Biggest Pain Points Telemedicine Practioners Face

With the walls coming down on telemedicine reimbursement and physician licensing, many doctors are looking to start practicing telemedicine –  either adding telemedicine to their services or starting their own online clinic. We’ve been talking with front line telemedicine practitioners about their biggest pain points in doing telemedicine and discovered that there are two common problems that most telemedicine providers are facing:

1. There isn’t a single complete telemedicine product that has all the online tools providers need to conduct their online practice.

Providers need at least three different tools to practice telemedicine: 1) video chat, 2) scheduling, and 3) collaboration and management such as storing/accessing doctor’s notes, patients information, secure email/messaging, admin portal, etc. Since these tools are usually not packaged together, providers end up having to use three separate tools to conduct a single telemedicine session.  This means that doctors and staff have to spend time learning to use three different products. Worse still, they also have to manage all these tools during a telemedicine visit. Practically speaking, this means dealing with about a million open windows on the screen for a telemedicine session.

2. Scheduling systems are not web-based.

Most doctors work in a clinic or in an office that hosts its own EMR and/or scheduling systems. This is because in the past keeping patient medical records on site was considered more secure. Recently there has a lot of debate now about whether cloud-based (i.e. web-based) systems are just as secure – which is another story. However, the outcome of this is that doctors practicing telemedicine still need to go to their office or clinic to access their schedules. Sometimes they even have to use a specific computer just to check their appointment calendar. What they need is a telemedicine tool that is cloud-based so their schedules can be accessible from any device anywhere, including their home computer or smartphone. After all isn’t that the whole point of being able to do telemedicine?

Of course, doctors don’t have to deal with all that technical inconvenience. They could always join a telemedicine provider network that already has a platform with the telemedicine tools in place. There are a growing number of these such as MDLIVE, Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well, HealthTap, etc….that are looking to employ doctors wanting a different lifestyle. But joining one of these telemedicine companies means giving up having your own online clinic and the freedom to practice medicine on your own terms.

You could also check out VSee’s new cloud medical office, which expands our OneClick Waiting Room with scheduling, online payment, and other features :)

What are your biggest pain points in practicing telemedicine?

Doctor on Demand Beating HealthTap – Pregnant Teens the Deciding Factor?

Growing contenders for the telemedicine market

A year ago, the undisputed telemedicine leaders were MDLIVE at #1 and TelaDoc at #2. Then American Well came onto the scene when it decided to pivot its business model to copy MDLIVE’s. It hired a network of providers and  started doing direct consumer video doctor consultations.

The reason for this pivot was simple – American Well picked Vidyo as its video telemedicine partner and got bogged down with IT instead of innovation and design. For example, with Vidyo’s complex server architecture, American Well would need to spend months of time and resources on hosting, security, firewall, etc. in order for it to do a large scale deployment. That doesn’t leave much for creating a great user experience. Thus American Well was losing money and had to change. Given that American Well has deep hospital relationships, and its founders are extremely successful business people, it quickly became the #3 telemedicine provider.

Then two mega earthquakes shook the landscape: Doctor on Demand and HealthTap started doing doctor video consultations, too.

Doctor on Demand is the brain child of Jay McGraw and his celebrity father, Dr. Phil. Backed by the constant coverage through Dr. Phil’s eponymous show, Doctor on Demand quickly gained market traction. HealthTap, on the other hand, is a well known brand with deep doctor penetration (it’s website says it has over 60,000 doctors), and thus getting into telemedicine was a logical choice. HealthTap debuted its 24/7 video consultation services this year.

Teen Pregnancies Are Putting Doctor on Demand and HealthTap on the Telemedicine Radar

doctor-on-demand-teen-clipIn the direct to consumer telemedicine space, Doctor on Demand and HealthTap are now locked in a mortal struggle. So how are they doing?

Doctor on Demand is clearly beating HealthTap. From interviewing numerous doctors who are in both systems, it turns out that Doctors on Demand is able to steer about three times the number of patients to the doctor than HealthTap. A number of doctors said that unless HealthTap is able to steer them a lot more patients, it is unclear how long HealthTap will last, since HealthTap is paying their doctors even if they have no patients to see.

One interesting insight into these numbers is that a large number of calls made to Doctors on Demand and HealthTap are from young girls who think they may be pregnant. The convenience of talking to a doctor about their choices makes both services very appealing this demographic of users. In the end, they may be the deciding factor in which telehealth app comes out ahead.

Becoming An Online Therapist – VSee Interview with Dr. Nicholas Jenner

dr_jenner_homepageFive years ago when Dr. Nicolas Jenner began exploring the idea of online therapy there were very few online counselors or telemental health services. Like most people in private practice then, his motivation was simply to save his clients a drive from one place to another. Instead, online counseling ended up saving him.

At about the time he was looking into online therapy, Dr. Jenner had a serious accident which left him immobile for months. The only way to maintain his practice during his long recovery was by seeing clients online. Through trial and error, Dr. Jenner fine-tuned his best practices to replace face-to-face consultations with video consultations, and he was soon on the road to building strong online therapy practice.

Eventually, due to family circumstances, he moved to a rural part of Germany where there were very few if any potential clients. Again, it was his online therapy practice which allowed him to make such a choice. Today, Dr. Jenner has a successful practice that is 100% online. He sees people from all over the world and has virtually no extra time for walk-in patients. He starts his daily round of online counseling sessions “in” Australia and then moves across the globe to Asia and the Middle East and finishes his day in Europe. For Dr. Jenner, online therapy is “very, very exciting.” It brings him in contact with a host different kinds of people and cultures, which adds an extra dimension to counseling, making it that much more satisfying.

Using VSee for Online Therapy

We asked Dr. Jenner how he chose VSee for his online therapy practice and his advice for taking one’s counseling practice online.

Why did you choose VSee to be you video platform provider?

VSee was in a long list of programs I tried. I tried Skype…Citrix, AnyMeeting, GoMeeting, even a service from the local phone company which was actually very good but it sent invitations in German to my American and Australian clients which confused them. VSee is the one that consistently provides me with everything I need to run my practice properly. It’s more likely to work in more locations, and that’s exactly what I need. I need a reliable vehicle to do video counseling, and VSee has given me that. I see them as a really reliable partner in my practice and for anyone starting an online therapy that’s essential.

Why not use Skype for online therapy?

Skype is a good product, but generally it just didn’t seem to come across as very credible that an online psychologist or psychiatrist would use Skype. It’s generally perceived as a thing to keep in touch with family and that sort of thing. When I see therapists marketing themselves online with Skype calls, I think “that’s not very professional” — so it was the professionalism. VSee has give me that credibility I can market myself that my provider is very secure and private.

How did you build an online clientele?

I decided to just advertise. I set up a Google Adwords account, and I placed an ad in there. I didn’t know if it would work — it did work. I had lots of serious inquiries, since then I’ve used more sophisticated marketing techniques. Plus I get a lot of word of mouth referrals, which is quite interesting when you work from a global basis. It’s amazing who knows somebody from the other side of the world, say from America to Asia. And my name has been passed across the continents quite often.

What was the most difficult part of getting your counseling practice online?

One of the biggest challenges with what I’m doing is the technical knowledge of the people you’re working with. They need a very very simple system that they click on, and they’re there. The knowledge that they have can have a big impact on the end result. When it doesn’t go smoothly, clients panic and they don’t seem to have the technical knowledge to change that at the moment or they don’t want to.

What other advice would you give someone interested in moving to an online therapy practice?

Finding someone you trust to run your video program. Nothing is more frustrating than you’re in the middle of a session, and the video quality breaks down or the connection breaks down or something happens that doesn’t work. It can mean the difference between someone improving in therapy or staying the same. So technology and the right provider is really the key to doing the stuff that I do.

When you look at an all round package,you want not just the product, but the service that goes on behind it.  BingMin [VSee rep] has been a constant source of comfort to me. When things have gone wrong, I can contact him and he’s gotten back to me very very quickly.

You also have to distinguish between what’s wrong with the product and whether you have the right Internet connection.

What issue do you see arising as online therapy and telemental health become more popular?

Where there’s money to be made, the corporates will get on it, and they will employ armies of therapists, and the individual feeling between a therapist and the client will be lost to a certain extent. There will also be a number of people who shouldn’t be doing it who will. I’ve come across a number of those in the last year who, for example, are using Facebook chat as a way to diagnose serious mental health issues.

The ultimate thing that will happen is regulation. When regulation comes in, it will make global online therapy much more difficult to practice and not that it’s a bad thing, but it will change the face of the industry and make it more difficult for the people who engage in it.

Dr. Jenner is a licensed therapist in psychological counseling with a Degree in CBT techniques through the University of West of Scotland and a Diploma in Crisis and Trauma Counseling through the Caledonian University in Glasgow.  He is also an Associate Member of the Institute of Counseling and a Professional Member of the American Counseling Society.