As a Doctor, Why is Telemedicine Important?

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By training on a family doctor, I practiced in a small town in Enfield Connecticut for about 20 years. Probably in the mid 90s, I had an experience on a fourth of July holiday weekend, where I was taking Nicole for maybe 15 primary care doctors. That's going to be a really bad weekend.

You're going to get very busy. So, if you're a parent, you know your kids often gets sick on Friday night as soon as the doctor's office closes, and if you're kind enough you wait till Saturday morning before you call me. So Saturday morning the calls start rolling in. Now mind you, it's a three day holiday weekend in the summer.

I can't send everybody to the working center or the hospitals. My colleagues are going to be upset with me. So probably between seven and noon one o'clock, I must have got 150, 200 phone calls and I found that by talking to people, asking them questions, doing tele medicine with the telephone at the time, it didn't have any MR, it didn't have video conferencing, I was able to probably dispose of 75-80% of the people that called me, 20% needed some kind of follow on care.

I wasn't about to handle, you know sub[xx] chest pain on the phone, but if it sounded reasonable, I took an action. So there were two problems with what happened on that weekend. First problem for me was the care was free, I didn't get reimbursed for any of what I did. It was the right thing to do, so I did it, and it was very convenient obviously for the patient.

And maybe the second thing was the law and all of what I was doing was a little fuzzy. It wasn't exactly illegal, but it wasn't exactly. So aside from not getting paid and possibly being illegal, it was a good idea. I provided convenient care in 90 seconds to you at a price point that was fantastic.

Then I come back into the office on Monday morning, and all of these calls were getting intercepted by various secretaries, they become billable events, you take a half day off from work, pay me a couple of hundered bucks, and we get the same outcome. I began to feel like a showman, what am I doing? So I said I want to develop a way to deliver inexpensive healthcare to the masses of the world, and I drank telemedicine Kool-Aid.

So I drank the telemedicine Kool-Aid, and I thought that by delivering virtual care services, again you can't do everything with virtual care, but there's a lot you can do, and I thought [xx] the pack[sp?] if you will, was moving in the direction that over time given remote monitoring sensor technology, videoconferencing, telecare electronic records, the likelihood that I was going to be able to do more and more, remotely and electronically.

I eliminate the significant part of my overhead when I do that. So, what I have to charge for a visit to be profitable, goes down dramatically. So I go back to what Andy Grove taught me about reading[sp?] inflection points, they occur at the 10x. That Saturday morning in a period of five hours, I took care of if you will more patients than I do in a week.

And I did it at a price point that was approximately zero. So, the challenge I started to offer people was what's most to offer healthcare. How do I double the volume of people you see and cut the cost in half? I'm not asking you to do it every 18 months, do it once in a decade and I'll be actually.