Can seeing a virtual doctor be as good as the real thing?
My simple response was that as technology, business models, and curious leaders continue to explore this space telemedicine will only continue to become more relevant to patients and communities.
Having lived and worked as an administrator in one of the CMS designated “frontier states” of Montana I am familiar with the capabilities, use, and need for telemedicine.
In Montana it allowed patients to see a specialty physician for a cardiac, orthopedic surgery, or a cancer consultation or follow up sooner rather than later. Instead of patients driving 3 hours to see a specialist they would be able to drive 15 minutes to a local physician office.
In the very near future, there are even greater possibilities as we continue to explore how technology can compliment the telemedicine exam.
For example, in a recent post on uncreate.com they introduced the new Nokia Ozo. It is a camera with 8 integrated and synchronized shutters and microphones. It can play back footage in virtual reality. Think holograms.
Next was the recent FDA approval of the first 3D printed drug called SPRITAM from the treatment of epilepsy. You can read the full article published by Rob Szczerba (@RJSzczerba) at this link: FDA Approves First 3D Printed Drug
In another discussion, Dr. Larry Chu (@larrychu) was impressed with the turnaround time of his lab work from Theranos (@Theranos). It only took 5 hours versus the 17 day turn around time for his labs from Quest Diagnostics and his provider.
Here is where the beauty begins for the short term future of telemedicine and for us as patients.
Imagine waking up and not feeling very well. Maybe you use the restroom and then go into the kitchen. You are then notified that based on your sleep patterns, your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing changes that you need to see a physician. (based off of soft sensor technology, article on tech crunch here)
You schedule an appointment based on your convenience for 7:30 am.
You log in and magically your physician appears via virtual reality. Based on your information that has already been sent and analyzed with you scheduling the appointment the majority of the History and Physical are already documented. (needed in order to bill and assess patient) The majority of the time is spent in a dialogue between the patient and the physician.
If labs are ordered, the patient can decide to have blood drawn at a local facility based on their convenience. If the patient decides not to wait, the patient has the ability to use an at home kit and send the specimen to the lab and have the results sent by the end of the day. (typical turnaround can be done in a half day based on pick up times and processing)
In the event that a prescription is needed, the physician writes the order and distributes the file to allow for the medication to be printed.
I know some of the scenarios may be a stretch from how the technology was presented in the articles, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
As patients continue to push for better ways to access and distribute care the more self care models become reality.
A virtual physician may not be the same as seeing a physician face to face.
Yet when we are not feeling the best, have a great distance to travel, or want answers delivered more quickly, a virtual physician may be exactly what we order.
Patients get to choose the kind of healthcare “art” they need based on their expectations.
I always enjoy working on connecting dots in new ways. I hope you do too.
As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek