So many tele health discussions these days are framed as one-or-the-other arguments. One side says the COVID pandemic has proved that tel health deserves to take over as much of healthcare delivery as possible. The other side says the pandemic proved that clinical care is an irreplaceable model. Why do we humans take such polar opposite approaches? The future of tele health does not have to be one or the other.
Forbes contributor John Peloquin wrote a fascinating piece on this very topic in May 2022. He put forth a very convincing argument that there is room for both clinical and technology models in healthcare. While some of the arguments in his piece were flawed, the overall point was spot on – there is a place for both traditional clinical care and tele medicine. The two models should not be treated as mutually exclusive.
Assessing the Goals
The foundation of Peloquin’s piece was utilizing tele health to provide mental health services during the pandemic. When offices were closed and clinicians had no other choice, tele health allowed them to continue seeing their patients – albeit virtually – to maintain continuity of care. As Peloquin pointed out, the results were mixed. Some things turned out well and others did not.
Lacking in his assessment was any recognition of how doctor and patient determine goals. This is one part of the tele health discussion that is too often ignored. As a service, healthcare delivery has a purpose. There are goals whenever doctors and patients get together – whether these are consciously acknowledged or not.
It is easy to get caught up in whether clinicians think tele health is a good idea. It is easy to get caught up in dollars and cents arguments, the value of in-person visits, and even patient outcomes. We get caught up on all those things and never consider what the patient wants or expects. The patient’s goals should always override everything else.
Another point often lost in the discussion is the admission that neither model is perfect. The pro tele health side finds it easy to pick out all the inefficiencies of the clinical model. They can easily identify everything that is wrong with in-office visits. Those who favor the clinical model have no difficulty pointing out the inherent weaknesses in tele health technology.
Since neither model is perfect, the ideal solution would be to use both as a way of providing mutual support. The strengths of one can support the weaknesses of the other and vice-versa. Isn’t that the very reason we introduce technology in other industries?
The Technology Will Improve
One thing we can say for sure is that the technology will improve. What is available in 2022 is already light years ahead of what we had at our disposal just five years ago. CSI Health, a Medical Kiosks company that specializes in tele health solutions and medical kiosks, explains that the holy grail right now is complete diagnostic capabilities.
CSI Health kiosks already offer an impressive array of diagnostic tools. But things can be made better. But even the best technology will not be able to replace human capability. There will always be things that tele health technologies cannot do, things that only humans can.
The future of tele health doesn’t have to be a one-or-the-other thing. There is room for both technology and clinical practice. In fact, combining the two is that which gives us the best chance of making American healthcare even better.