Telemedicine has recently been featured in two different news outlets, the Economist and Healthcare Matters. This added attention suggests that the public is beginning to wake up to telemedicine’s potential.
According to the Economist: “Telemedicine is more than a Skype chat between doctor and patient, says Michael Young, who works on remote care for the University of North Carolina. The technology can look similar but the need for security and privacy is greater.”
Taking an international perspective, the Economist gives a useful primer on telemedicine’s legal status in the United States, including the patchwork of parity laws. It’s interesting to note that the European Union has a head start on adopting telemedicine: EU-member “countries may not pass laws that would stop doctors practising telemedicine, and doctors need only be licensed in one country to practise in all.” The article also points out that the US is falling behind a few small countries like Israel, whose “health-care system is fully digitized: all doctors use electronic medical records, and patients have access to their data.”
Meanwhile, Healthcare Matters features a report that says the global market for telehealth services at home is “surging” at a 24 percent annual rate of growth. “The telehome category,” they write, “the largest and fastest growing segment of the market, is forecast to jump from just $6.5 billion in 2013 to nearly $24 billion in 2019.”
These are strong forecasts, and even more good news for the future of telemedicine around the world.
In spite of Google’s rocky start into health care with the failed Google Health, this hasn’t stopped search giant from jumping back into the health market waters with both feet. It is taking on Apple HealthKit with the recent launch of its own Google Fit api for Android health apps. Now, Google is giving away free video doctor consultations.
Earlier this week someone discovered that Google’s search engine has a new health search feature which allows you to immediately video call a doctor that can answer your questions about the particular health issue searched. The new feature was first noted by Jason Houle of Massachusetts, who posted a screenshot (below) of it on Reddit.
Google did confirm that it’s piloting this telehealth feature as well as footing the bill for all doctor video calls during this trial period. It has also enlisted the help of California-based Scripps and One Medical Group. The feature apparently uses Google Helpouts (video call interface based on Google Hangouts) for these medical video calls. While Helpouts is designed to make available the dispensing of advice and services of all kinds over video call, it does includes a HIPAA-compliant section for certified healthcare practitioners. Unfortunately, for those looking to get a free doctor consultation, the pilot is only running in Massachusetts and California.
When asked about the reason for the pilot, Google spokeswoman said, “When you’re searching for basic health information – from conditions like insomnia or food poisoning – our goal is provide you with the most helpful information available. We’re trying this new feature to see if it’s useful to people.”
While Google denies that it is becoming a health care company, it has an awful lot of health care projects under its wings to be a mere bystander. It just committed up to 750 million for Calico – its anti-aging venture and has recently partnered with 2 research groups to create a Cancer Genomics Cloud. And of course, everyone is wondering which mobile health platform Google Fit vs. Apple HealthKit will revolutionize the health space — or if they will at all. Either way, it will be interesting to see what role Google decides to take in shaping the health care industry.
top photo courtesy: Venturebeat
Congratulations to Dr. Latisha Rowe and Click It Clinic, one of VSee’s customers! They just won the Upstart Award from the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce (GHBC). She received the award at GHBC’s 20th Annual Pinnacle Awards on October 11. The Upstart Award recognizes promising, Black-owned businesses in the Houston area and comes with a check for $2,500.
Click It Clinic offers the OneClick Waiting Room service by VSee. Of her business, Dr. Rowe says, “Click It Clinic caters to your busy lifestyle by providing convenient virutal appointments across the USA.”
Visit clickitclinic.com to learn more. We also featured Dr. Rowe on TV back in August.
Once again, congrats to Dr. Rowe. Keep up the great work, and here’s to a bright future for telemedicine!
photo courtesy UNM Center for Telehealth
When observing the stark beauty of Georgia O’ Keefe’s New Mexico landscapes, it’s easy to see why this largely rural state would be an ideal place for telemedicine to take root. In fact, the University of New Mexico (UNM) has been the cradle of the very successful Project ECHO video telemedicine clinic model which was started to treat liver disease patients. Now, the UNM Health Sciences Center has been awarded $15 million by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Health Care Innovations Award to build on its telehealth program for treating stroke and brain injury patients.
The UNM telehealth program, also known as Access to Critical Cerebral Emergency Support Services (ACCESS), currently includes a network of 11 hospitals. The grant money will be used to expand the network to 30 hospitals across the state. Each hospital will have its emergency rooms equipped with HD cameras and video conferencing equipment provided by the Albuquerque-based tech firm Net Medical Xpress. This will allow those local hospitals to conduct remote face-to-face consultations with UNM neurologists and neurosurgeons. This telestroke program, spearheaded by UNM neurosurgery department chair Dr. Howard Yonas, not only expects to improves access to medical care in rural communities, it also aims to reduce unnecessary medical transport costs which can be as much as $30,000 for a patient.
This CMS grant for telehealth is just one of the many indicators of the growing interest in telehealth this year. Private telehealth companies like Doctor on Demand and Teladoc recently raised $27 million and $50 million respectively in new funding. The HRSA also just announced awarding nearly $2.5 million in grants for telemedicine programs that improve rural health care. The Mayo Clinic, too, is starting its own telehealth kiosk pilot. UNM’s own Project ECHO has been discussed in both Forbes and the New York Times with its video telemedicine model which is also being used for chronic care management and has been reproduced all over the world
With UNM having Project ECHO already under the belt, VSee expects to see great things coming out of UNM’s new ACCESS program as well.
Telemedicine abortion has been a hot topic recently with Planned Parenthood losing a “telemedicine abortion” ban suit against Iowa.
Alana Semuels has explored the issue further in the Atlantic online, showing how telemedicine could impact women’s access to safe abortion.
Writes Semuels, “there is one procedure that, though it could be easily, safely, and cheaply administered via telemedicine, is widely unavailable: the termination of a pregnancy.”
Surprisingly, despite the greater convenience of telemedicine, “abortions did not increase in Iowa after telemedicine was introduced; instead, they decreased, part of a national trend in which abortions are decreasing.”
It will take changes to the laws of several states before most Americans have full access to telemedicine. There’s much more to this complex topic. Read the full article.
photo courtesy: Tony Leys via The Register