State telemedicine networks: a modern anachronism

I continue to read with interest articles describing new telemedicine projects. I just don’t get it.

What are these guys doing? You don’t need a telemedicine network fraught with complicated hookups, poor screen quality, and difficult communication interfaces. The new telemedicine network is called the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T (invented by Al Gore in 1994) which in case you didn’t know obviates your “telemedicine initiatives”. I mean seriously, who is sponsoring all these things anyway? Oh, it must be the really efficient guys who you want to sponsor your health care.

There are hundreds of services popping up that do this stuff all day long – American Well, TeleDoc, Consult-A-Doc, Myca, etc. The only thing encouraging I saw in this article is that they actually believe they can have a 100 clinics up the first year. That will be great so that the millions of people who have been doing eConferencing via the internet for the last five years can have some medical people to talk to. Cool.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations on the concept of a broadband connection. Maybe you can download some Seinfeld re-runs to celebrate the glory days of 1998.

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2 replies »

  1. @Richard
    Just my two cents, keeping in mind I haven’t really studied up on these telenetworks… Anyway, unless they are actually installing a brand new, dedicated line directly from your site to theirs, or, you are dialing up a directly connection to them over, well, a modem, you would be going through the channels of the internet anyway. My guess is that they have a VPN tunnel or something of the sorts, but it is still going through the cloud that is the internet.

  2. Scott:
    My organization (rural hospital with off-site clinics in nearby communities) wants to do telemedicine internally first, then open up to outside of our network at some point. But it seems to me that there’s a big difference between a business eConference or webinar versus practicing medicine online. Am I missing something here? Please enlighten me.
    Now some questions… What about protecting PHI, HIPAA issues? What about the data that needs to be transferred? (I’m talking about bandwidth, quality of service) Let’s say my wife is having a troubled pregnancy and we visit a telemedicine clinic with an ultrasound technician and equipment, with the physician back at the hospital, or at his home or office. Won’t the Doc need detailed real-time data from the ultrasound? What about other vital stats? Labs?
    I understand that this type of data can travel on the Internet cloud, but aren’t the real issues how to get that data from the Internet cloud out to the Docs, the clinics and the hospitals? Isn’t that what “building a telemedicine network” is all about? Creating fiber optic, high available, ultra high bandwidth, QoS networks? And aren’t there several ways to do this, the most costly is to be a Tier 1 ISP who can connect to anywhere on the Internet without fees? But isn’t a more realistic business model to partner with Tier 2 and even Tier 3 ISPs to “create a telemedicine network”?
    Don’t Docs and Hospitals and clinics take on a great risk if they approach telemedicine with the same attitude with which they would approach a business webinar?
    I would like to understand why we don’t need to be so concerned about these things, as your post seems to suggest. I don’t want my organization to be unnecessarily paranoid – just “appropriately” paranoid!
    Can we simply purchase some $50 web cams and use Microsoft’s IM application to do telemedicine? Is it really that simple? Please help me to understand your point of view better – I want to know what you know about this.