Industry executives: In today's healthcare landscape, the patient comes first

By Eric Wicklund
06:45 PM
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Panelists in Monday's ATA Industry Executive Sessions agreed that the healthcare landscape is becoming consumer-driven, and providers need to use tel

AUSTIN, TX – It's a consumer's world, and we'd all just better get used to it.

That's especially true of the nation's doctors, who've been at the center of the healthcare landscape and are now dealing with a healthcare system that's putting the patient first. In this reform-minded era, they're turning to telemedicine and mobile health to make those connections and carve out a better and more efficient business.

A panel of telemedicine industry executives took on that question Monday afternoon at the American Telemedicine Association's18th Annual International Meeting & Trade Show in an Industry Executive Session focusing on user-friendly design. Their conclusion: Healthcare needs to design new methods of care delivery that appeal to the consumer.

"I think there's such an opportunity with consumers and what they're demands are," said Steve Cashman, founder of HealthSpot, which is designing and marketing the HealthSpot Station kiosk. "The majority of (doctors) want to be more effective in what they do for a living," and they'll only be effective if they meet their patients' needs.

"It's becoming a consumer market," added Allen Izadpanah, president and CEO of ViTel Net. "People are starting to shop for their own doctors now."

The panel, which included Mark Vanderwerf, vice president and director of eHealth and OEM for Nonin; Jerry Wang, director of engineering and quality assurance for A&D Medical; Andy Sallee, vice president of business development for Alere Connect; and Simon Wright, managing director of research and development for Panasonic, pointed out that "design is everything" in telemedicine and mHealth. Products that appeal to the consumer will be accepted by them, and they'll in turn compel their doctors to embrace telemedicine and mHealth – or lose business.

The market is becoming comfortable with telemedicine technology and even demanding it, pointed out Vanderwerf. Consumers are taking charge of their healthcare and using more and more tools and devices. That, in turn, is compelling physicians to embrace telemedicine as a means of communicating with their patients, pulling in healthcare data and effecting better health outcomes.

The Monday afternoon session was one of several being staged by the ATA to bring together the movers and shakers in telemedicine and mHealth and engage them in panel discussions about top trends. Earlier in the day, American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg led a discussion on "The New World of Service Delivery," highlighting direct care providers who are using telemedicine to reach new markets.

"Telehealth, in truth, is a pretty magical technology," said Schoenberg, whose company is among the nation's largest providers of home-based telehealth encounters.

Joining Schoenberg were Carl Keldie, MD, who recently retired as chief medical officer of Corizon, a provider of telehealth services to prisons; Lee Paschall, CEO of Insight Telepsychiatry; and John R. Palumbo, president of MD Aligne, which markets a web-driven consumer health portal.

Perhaps surprisingly, this panel said technology may be a key component to telemedicine, but it shouldn't be, as Paschall put it, "the only cargo on the train." Providers have to understand that telemedicine can bridge gaps between the patient and the doctor, and that interaction is just as important as the toys and tools used to allow it.

In the end, they said, it's all about appealing to the consumer.

"It's all about the channels, not so much the healthcare technology," said Palumbo, who urged his fellow executives to design telemedicine programs that address the customer's needs, not the healthcare expert's.

"When people are accessing healthcare, you need to speak their language," added Schoenberg. "You need to touch them where they can be touched."

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Telehealth