They Still Call it Telemedicine? Tracking the Evolution of HealthIT.

Opinion

Recently, the Houston Technology Center asked me to join a panel discussion on “The Future of Telemedicine” at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. I was a bit surprised as I’ve never thought of myself as being part of the telemedicine industry. My business partner, Bryan Haardt, and I last year co-founded Decisio Health to sell software that creates a patient dashboard designed to give care-givers increased situational awareness when treating patients. In developing our product and pitching investors over the past year, “telemedicine” is not a term either of us has used to describe Decisio.

But Tim Budzik, the managing director of the technology center’s JSC campus and event host, insisted that I and Decisio were a perfect fit for the discussion, which further confused me. It did start me thinking however, on just what is “telemedicine” and could my “hip” new startup be a telemedicine company?

For the panel, we were directed to discuss “the future of telemedicine,” which struck me as funny since, to me, the concept is something of the past. To me, telemedicine conjures up a vision of a video conference between a doctor in a stuffy corporate board room and a patient somewhere remote and inaccessible. The term “telemedicine” seems quaint and a touch archaic, like a technology from the ’90s and early 2000s that came and went, like the PDA or AOL. To prepare for the panel discussion, I tried to reconcile this picture in my head with the technologies I am now seeing being developed in what I tend to think of as healthcare IT.

We are now in a world where companies like 2nd.MD can put patients in contact with an expert physician in whatever particular disease they have and setup a consultation in a matter of minutes, on a cell phone, a tablet, or a laptop—all from the comfort of their home. At MD Anderson Cancer Center, an Oncology Expert Advisor is being developed using IBM’s super-computer Watson, which is sifting through millions of data points, in order to inform patients of exactly what their best treatment options are for their specific genotype of cancer. So where does telemedicine fit into this landscape?

I realized that all of these technologies derive, in part, from “telemedicine,” a catch-all moniker that served as the foundation for current innovations like our dashboard. In addition to the video-conferencing, practitioners and policy-makers were tackling issues that are relevant to our industry today. Questions like, How does reimbursement work when the patient and doctor never actually meet? What about liability, and how does the FDA fit into all this?

Some of these answers are still evolving, … Next Page »

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Gray Hancock is the co-founder and COO of Decisio Health in Houston. Follow @

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