The pandemic has undeniably expedited innovation. As people were forced to isolate themselves, major industries had to pivot to accommodate. That is no more true than in the realm of telemedicine–a medical model that brings the physician’s office into the patient’s home. Regardless of the need for telemedicine over the past two years and waves of lockdowns, stagnating stocks show that “the future of care” isn’t sticking.
NostaLab CEO John Nosta, innovation theorist, member of the Google Health Advisory Board, and World Health Organization technology expert calls today’s anemic version of telemedicine no more innovative than a call from a doctor 50 years ago. In other words, we’ve resorted to “the same but better,” or safe improvements rather than exponential change. And that’s because change beyond an outcome we can anticipate based on past experience is hard. People resist. They prefer familiarity, even if they know things have to be different in order to truly be better. Nosta tells The Dales Report that the early days of television were nothing more than a radio show with a TV camera added in the background. Although television was a powerful medium, adoption was slow and had to be accomplished in baby steps. Telemedicine is television right after radio. The traditional doctor office experience has been cut-and-pasted onto a computer screen. “The talking head clinician is hardly a robust application of technology’s capabilities to telemedicine,” says Nosta. “Our challenge is to do much more than transfer an office visit to a Zoom call.”
Today, we have an existing medical system and then we try to push technology into it. Nosta asks why we can’t look at it the other way around? Why can’t we take medicine and incorporate it into technology? Watch the interview to hear his examples. The path to mass adoption is not inevitable even if temporarily forced. With telemedicine, we couldn’t leave the house, so the online office visit was all we had. Innovation that slips in the back door, makes itself a snack in your kitchen, and sits on your couch as if it’s always been there finds a quicker path to adoption. There is no “sudden change.” It’s incremental, familiar, and then, eventually, you can’t seem to recall what life was like before it. Probably worse, though.
As Nosta writes in his post The Urgent Need for Telemedicine 2.0:
The many and varied digital health tools available today can potentially provide a unique and appropriate window into patients’ real lives with real-time data and analytics. Simply put, the office can come to the patient! And the reality may just become that the office visit is less an intrusion into our lifestyle, but a part of a more dynamic continuum of care where that visit becomes less the rule and more the exception.
Build into the dialogue the role of artificial intelligence, language analytics, and the emerging aspects of voice, breath, and speech patterns, and what emerges is tomorrow’s telemedicine that expands the role of a simple conversation to a diagnostic tool in and of itself. From the ECG to the stethoscope to voice-mediated disease detection, technology no longer facilitates a connection but enhances the very nature of the techno-exam.
What Are The Current Financial And Business Implications Of Telemedicine?
Nosta says that the marketplace is a reflection of adoption and utility. If you look at the Teladoc (TDOC) stock, it’s down 50-60% over six months. We’re not seeing the financial support that can drive clinical adoption. That’s an interesting duality. When you see something like Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) going up, that feeds your interest to buy an electric car. It’s a complex dynamic. The question is: is telemedicine a viable clinical option when it’s not a viable financial option? I find that a lot of the business journals and papers are citing telemedicine as going up but they are using data that is six months old. In today’s world, particularly around Covid, that’s changing so quickly that those data are no longer an accurate reflection of the marketplace. In the final analysis, telemedicine is not at an inflection point, it’s at a tipping point. It’s going to be an interesting time where both technology and human nature, together, play a role in advancing this important therapeutic modality.