We live in an age where the process of communication always seems to have an intermediary involved. We text rather than call; we gossip on social media; we ask Amazon to send us things by talking to “Alexa”; we receive higher education in the form of online courses, we use AI to select potential romantic partners, and now we’re eliminating another significant human contact point – the physician. We’re moving into the era of telemedicine. While the training for physicians now includes becoming more people conscious and having as much EQ as IQ, we are telling them to be effective and efficient because the future in medicine is going to be delivered remotely. If I sound troubled by this phenomenon, I must confess that I am. Yes, I do believe that telemedicine will be more efficient, but can it deliver the quality interaction that is so essential to an effective diagnosis?
For one, the technology around virtual consultations has finally matured to the point where doctors can offer a good experience. As Andrew Watson, Chief Medical Director of Telemedicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, puts it, “Telemedicine is moving like lightning. We’re able to do so much more than before”. Faster Internet connections and better software facilitate far smoother video chatting than in days past with ubiquitous mobile devices; people can now access consultations from anywhere… Additionally, telemedicine has expanded to include asynchronous messaging, which patients are increasingly more comfortable using in which truly allows doctors to better utilize their time. A single doctor can now advise many patients on routine issues, freeing up more time to focus in person on trickier cases. …In the last few years, more and more patients have increasingly looked to retail pharmacies in their neighborhoods for routine health care services because it’s more convenient than visiting the doctor. The logical next step is that they won’t have to leave their homes at all.