Would you tell your problems to a virtual, life-sized rendering of a doctor doling out advice and prescriptions from hundreds of miles away? That's the vision of OnMed, a Florida-based company out of stealth today with a telemedicine station meant to make it easier to access healthcare by beaming doctors to patients. It's a modern twist on the classic house call, and the market case is strong. Seven out of 10 emergency room visits are unnecessary, and many Americans visit the ER for non-emergency health needs. The result is billions of wasted healthcare dollars and thousands of wasted hours in wait times.
For telemedicine to work, it's vital that certain infrastructure -- cellular service and Wi-Fi -- remain undamaged. Certainly, where people are able use a phone or connect to the Internet, telemedicine could prove an important new form of climate adaption. "Given that extreme weather events are here to stay and are likely to become more severe and frequent in the future, it is important to consider new ways to increase access to care during disasters," said Uscher-Pines, lead author of the study, which appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Other co-authors include Dr. Shira Fischer and Rosalie Malsberger of RAND, Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kristin Ray of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Dr. Ian Tong of Doctor on Demand, the telemedicine service analyzed in the study. "Direct-to-consumer telemedicine is an innovation in healthcare delivery that can help to address workforce shortages following a disaster by allowing out-of-state physicians to provide timely care to an affected population," Uscher-Pines said.
French startup Doctolib announced back in September that it would open up telemedicine appointments on its platform in 2019. The company is taking advantage of recent legal changes that finally make telemedicine legal in France. Doctolib is a marketplace matching patients with health practitioners -- 70,000 practitioners and 1,400 medical institutions use it in France and Germany. Each health professional pays €109 per month to access the service ($124). By replacing your calendar with Doctolib, you save a ton of time.
One study from Ontario demonstrated that the more sessions patients attended via telemedicine, the more likely they were to stay in an opioid treatment program. Patients in the study attended telemedicine sessions under a nurse's supervision at an affiliated opioid treatment clinic. The prescribing physicians, who likely oversee other clinics from afar, were videoconferenced in from a different location. Videoconferencing helped patients better access providers to discuss medication issues, but still required patients to travel to an affiliated clinic.