Making the Case for Simpler Telemedicine Technology

Despite telemedicine coming into its own during the COVID pandemic, its use has declined to some degree in the last year or so. Why is that? An interesting piece published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) back in 2021 suggests that digital overload could be a contributing factor. The piece suggests that doctors, already overwhelmed by the ongoing digital transformation, just don’t have the capacity to embrace telemedicine right now.

If true, HBR’s position is compelling evidence that the healthcare IT sector needs to get together and figure out how to make telemedicine technology simpler. Not doing so virtually guarantees that clinicians will not voluntarily adopt any type of remote care for their patients. The only way to get them on board will be to drag them kicking and screaming.

Technology Should Not Be Harder

Digital technology allows us to do a lot of things we could not do in the past. But strangely enough, some bits of technology we now take for granted do not make the tasks we do with them any easier. The tasks are actually harder. It shouldn’t be that way. If we want people to adopt new technologies, especially in healthcare, said technologies should be simpler to use.

Let’s step away from healthcare and consider the cell phone. The cell phone is ubiquitous to modern society. But stop and think about it. Making a call with a cell phone is harder than making it with a landline. With a landline, there are just two steps: pick up the receiver and dial. That’s it. Making a call on a cell phone requires:

  • Pulling the phone out of your pocket or purse
  • Turning the phone on and/or getting past the lock screen
  • Bringing up the dialer app
  • Dialing the number (if you know it)
  • Looking up the contact (if you don’t know the number).

It is a lot faster and easier to make a call on a landline. That’s just the reality. Likewise, doctors saddled with unintuitive telehealth platforms find themselves frustrated because things were a lot easier when paper and pen ruled the day.

The Electronic Health Records Mess

Ask your primary care doctor how they feel about digital technology and you’re likely to get an answer that includes rolled eyes and a long sigh. A good majority of doctors are nonplussed. Unfortunately, a lot of their frustrations are the direct result of the electronic health record (EHR) mess that started more than a decade ago.

EHRs were supposed to streamline the administrative aspects of delivering healthcare services. But according to San Antonio-based CSI Health (more information here), this is not what has actually happened. Instead, poorly designed EHR platforms and a lack of industry standards have created a nightmare.

CSI Health’s telemedicine kiosks are pretty simple to use compared to some EHR systems. But because so many doctors already have a bad taste in their mouth from EHR systems they hate, convincing them to embrace remote care through a telemedicine kiosk is virtually impossible.

We Need to Simplify Things

CSI Health says that study data shows the effectiveness of telemedicine during the COVID pandemic. Telemedicine was a tremendous success when healthcare providers were forced to use it. But its usefulness has gradually declined over the last 18 months simply because doctors are suffering from digital overload.

We can solve that problem by simplifying things. Moreover, we need to solve it. Otherwise, we are throwing away technology that promises to transform how healthcare services are delivered for generations. Likewise, giving up on the technology could mean even better technologies are never developed. And that would truly be a shame.