Google just announced that they are piloting a specific health focused service for Helpouts which apparently is a fully HIPAA-compliant system that allows patients to receive telemedicine from clinical providers. They are currently partnering with One Medical Group, an “experience-focused” medical practice, which allows patients to “request a Helpout, and typically speak with a physician within 20 minutes. It’s recommended for people with cold and flu symptoms, rashes, or simple infections.”
I love the idea of medicine finally moving away from the clinic and towards a digital future, and in our health system we are currently exploring ways that we can deliver telemedicine to our patients with diabetes. But to do this effectively, we have to understand the elements needed for a health visit.
One of my students helped me map out this diagram of a diabetes visit and it makes me realize that telemedicine is much more than just communication technology. For a larger view click here.
How do you measure height, weight, and blood pressure of the kids to make sure that they are growing and developing and are not hypertensive? How do you check their injection sites to make sure they don’t have scar tissue affecting absorption of their insulin? How do you obtain hemoglobin A1c, which is the 3 month measure of glycemia that we usually obtain in clinic to help inform our treatment decisions?
And how do we review blood sugars from afar given that most patients walk in with numbers written on a piece of paper? It’s not that simple, even with a number driven disease like diabetes. I do believe the sky’s the limit in digital health, but for right now I don’t think the google solution will fly for us. Other options include using designated telemedicine centers, or even delivering co-managed care in partnership with general pediatricians; time will tell as we also try to figure out that horrible tangled web of reimbursement!
Joyce Lee, MD is a pediatrician, diabetes specialist, and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. She blogs about design and healthcare at joycelee.tumblr.com.