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As healthcare becomes increasingly consumerized, more providers and organizations are looking to telemedicine to meet their patients' needs. Patients who are used to the instant gratification offered by retailers and financial services are starting to expect the same from healthcare. Traditional methods of receiving care -- mainly, going to the hospital or doctor's office -- are no longer adequate for many healthcare consumers who have grown used to the convenience of the internet age.
At ATA 2019, Dave Skibinski, CEO of telemedicine platform provider SnapMD, told SearchHealthIT that telemedicine can have an impact in every area of healthcare, though some areas of medicine have yet to fully adopt telemedicine services. However, Skibinski said as the technology continues to evolve, it will converge with other aspects of healthcare to offer organizations and providers a single platform that can address all of their clinical needs.
Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
What effect has consumer behavior had on the healthcare industry?
Dave Skibinski: We're in the early stage of the e-commerce industry in healthcare. The consumer, in the last five to 10 years, almost regardless of age, has been using FaceTime and Skype to talk to their children and grandchildren across the country, and even across the globe. They've been conditioned to do that, and at the same time order products and services on the commercial internet. So it is not surprising that there are companies that are intending to offer access and convenience to high-quality healthcare directly to the consumer.
If you think about the largest cohort of adults in America, it's the Millennial generation. They've grown up on FaceTime, Skype and other tools that offer video content. They've been conditioned through their online behavior to get things in rapid form. … On top of that, if you look at the delivery of healthcare in America over the last 20 years, it has been shifting closer and closer to the consumer. It used to be you went to the hospital for nearly everything, other than your primary care doctor.
It's a natural progression that medicine has been going from a centralized system [to one] closer to the consumer. The last mile in healthcare is telemedicine. And that's what's driving this, is that the consumer through their online behavior has grown to expect it throughout their life, and that the healthcare system has to find a way to adapt to that to the best degree those services can be delivered at a high-quality level.
What are some of the current applications for telemedicine services?
Skibinski: We have customers doing lactation consultations for new mothers. [A new mother] can go online in the security and privacy of her own home, on demand, and speak to a certified lactation counselor. Now she has a licensed professional giving her advice on exactly what to do, and who will stay online with her. With the advent of the video … she can now be coached by a certified practitioner on the best way to do things.
Speech therapy for stroke victims [is another]. If you have both facial paralysis and paralysis of a limb from a stroke, if you have that paralysis of limb, it's going to be even harder to get you to a therapist to get your speech therapy. There's no reason for you to. That speech therapist can come online and do exactly the same therapy with you to help you with your speech and recover from your stroke.
There are a host of services like that. It's just a matter of timing and where the pendulum has swung and how many people are jumping on how soon. It's all coming, it's just a matter of degrees and what specialties have chosen to adopt it faster than others.
Are there specialties that haven't adopted telemedicine services yet?
Skibinski: Certain areas of specialty medicine have not jumped on this as early [as others]. There are some sub-specialties where the use case might not seem so obvious, but when you sit down and look at it, you go, 'Wow.' For instance, sports medicine. These powerfully gifted athletes, male and female, are also quite fragile because their mental state of mind has as much to do with their performance as their physical being. … We've seen cases, unfortunately, where certain athletes have behavioral issues. Do they want to be seen going to a behavioral place for care and now suffer the stigma on top of the public behavior they exhibit? You can now have mental health care providers engage them, assess them and provide ongoing therapy.
If you look all across healthcare, there's probably not an area that can't be assisted by telemedicine. Our point of view is that telemedicine in many regards is a complement to standard care to increase the access, convenience and timeliness of that care.
How do you think telemedicine will evolve in the next few years?
Skibinski: There has to be a consolidation of the technologies. We have to solve a bigger problem than a niche problem with telemedicine. There will probably be a converging of technologies -- for instance, partnering with a remote patient monitoring company, with a patient engagement company. These technologies need to converge and be combined into a more optimal solution that can be applied to more clinical needs.