ATA2020: Takeaways from DTC telemedicine panel

July 2, 2020

ATA2020: Takeaways from DTC telemedicine panel

Last week, our own Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lisa Ide, participated on a panel during the annual American Telemedicine Association conference. Lisa joined fellow executive-level thought leaders from GoodRX, Ro, and HIMSHERS to discuss the importance of patient experience and what makes direct-to-consumer telemedicine unique. The four panelists represented organizations from various stages of growth that target different patient populations —their individual experiences made for an insightful discussion. I was so impressed by the dialogue that I wanted to share some of the big themes here. If you missed it, here are some key takeaways from the discussion. 

Telemedicine versus in-person care

There’s a preconception (I’d naturally argue it’s a misconception) that a telemedicine visit can’t provide the same quality of care and patient experience as an in-person visit. 

The panelists discussed how with in-person care, providers are required to keep up to date with guidelines, account for patient history, and document the visit. This means in-person visits often involve a provider spending most of the visit looking at their computer and typing, leaving little time for patient interaction. The provider experience suffers too with increased clinical work time, lower efficiency, and a focus on data entry and documentation versus connecting to patients. 

The panelists also made an interesting observation: telemedicine tools don’t have to be reserved for virtual care. For example, patient information can be gathered asynchronously using telemedicine tools ahead of an in-person visit. This gives providers more time to focus on the patient versus gathering and entering data.

Patient empowerment

One of the more passionate discussions during the panel was around patient empowerment. It was clear the panelists were all on the same page: education is key.

In today’s world, patients have access to more information online than ever before. They are researching their symptoms before ever accessing care, then making their own Google or WebMD-educated decisions on when and how to receive care. 

Patients are going to continue making their own decisions when it comes to their health. To be successful, both telemedicine and traditional healthcare organizations need to focus on a consumer-centric patient experience. Success starts with equipping patients with proper education on what is being treated, and why a treatment they receive may differ from something they read on Google.  

Data interoperability is a healthcare issue, not a telemedicine issue

Historically, telemedicine companies have been criticized for their ability (or lack thereof) to share data from their platform back to the health system. One of the panelists shared their personal patient experience with in-person care, and how the lack of data sharing between local health systems impacted their care. Leading the discussion to the ultimate point: data interoperability is not a telemedicine problem, it’s a healthcare problem. 

Admittedly, Zipnosis was a bit of an outlier in this part of the discussion as we are the telemedicine tool for health systems—powering their DTC efforts. Our “policy” revolves around being integrated with the health system’s own EMR and offering patient opt-in messages before sharing information with their primary care provider. 

Regardless, the discussion brought to light that many “telemedicine problems” or “telemedicine concerns” are simply healthcare industry problems and concerns. Telemedicine IS healthcare, and it’s time for the industry to start seeing it that way.

I may be biased, but this session was one of my favorites from the conference last week. If you attended ATA and missed it, I highly recommend you check it out here. You’re in for some thought-provoking discussion on the future of healthcare, telemedicine, and the patient experience.


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