Health 2.0 Conference: Clinician-Patient Interaction

The morning session focused on clinician-patient interactions.  Executives from Myca, VisionTree, AmericanWell, and ReachMyDoctor, presented their virtual doctors' office visit tools. All of the tools had similar features, such as online scheduling, and the choice of different types of offices visits, such as IM chat or video.  Most integrated well with personal health records, so that during an office visit, the physician had access to the patient's medication refill history, or overdue routine preventive medical tests, such as blood-work, prostate screens, or mammograms.

At the end of the panel discussion, several good questions were asked.  People wondered what incentives were in place for physicians and patients to use the system, especially if each doctor was using a different system.  Does this mean that the patient will have to log on to two different websites if their general practitioner uses HelloHealth, but their cardiologist uses AmericanWell?  The panel responded that each of these web applications was part of a larger central platform.  It may be more helpful to think of each web tool as an individual iPhone app.  iPhone apps can communicate with each other and run on a single system (phone), so it's possible for these individual web tools to play nicely together in the future.  One question I had: where are all of the patient tools that plug into this central platform?  Maybe that's tomorrow's talk...

The second session brought out some pretty tough critics of the virtual doctor's office idea.  Although these new panelists liked what they were seeing and hearing, at heart, they were still physicians that saw many challenges to using these products in their own practice.  A psychiatrist was the first to challenge, saying that good psychotherapy demands face-to-face interactions.  I've seen this type of push-back from doctors before while consulting at medical device start-up companies.  No matter how transformative or revolutionary the new technology could be, unless doctors can easily integrate the technology into their current practice, the idea may flounder.

Yesterday at the Kaiser HealthCamp Un-Conference, a cool term surfaced -- "minimally disruptive technology" -- which was used to describe an approach to reform health care technology that pushed progress, while not upsetting the status quo, so to speak.  Granted, there is a learning curve associated with any new technology, and to implement an idea such as virtual doctors' office visits will require significant infrastructure changes in the medical community.

Will only a fringe group of early adapters use this technology?  Is it realistic to think that a majority of doctors will use such a system?  Too early to tell, but it wouldn't hurt to get some of the nay-sayers involved with the design while the concept is still in its early stages.