Telemedicine is a rapidly growing method of care delivery. Consumers now have an option to access a provider at their convenience virtually for many common health care conditions. As the health care industry shifts to value-based care, additional virtual care offerings under the broader umbrella of telehealth are being offered, which include wellness through sick care.
If we step outside of health care for a moment, we can acknowledge significant shifts that have taken place in our environment. With the launch of the Apple smartphone in 2007, Americans have quickly adopted mobile connectivity as a primary means for obtaining information, performing daily tasks, and becoming increasingly empowered consumers. Pew Research estimated in 2017 that smartphones are owned by 77 percent of adult Americans, which has had an impact on the culture of American society regarding communication preferences, social interactions, and approaches for navigating daily tasks and important life events such as health care. Pew Research Center reported in 2015 that more than 62 percent of smartphone users have used their phone to look up information about a health condition.
Mobile devices, the internet, and Google have also completely transformed our expectations around the availability of information: when we have a question today, most of us immediately “Google it.” Growing up, I would write the question down and either visit the school library or look it up in an encyclopedia, which was likely a few years old since printing. I remember my parents saying those encyclopedias would be an asset I could pass on to my children for their studies. Clearly they could not predict the disruption that the accessibility and mobility of the internet would have on all our lives.
As we think about these environmental shifts within the context of health care, it is often acknowledged that our industry lags technology adoption trends. When you visit hospital providers or physician offices, the processes and procedures are typically organized around silo administrative functions and areas of clinical specialty. In addition, patients often spend a significant amount of their time traveling to different locations or visiting diagnostic clinics based on provider availability rather than patient preference.