Telehealth Is More Disruptive Than We May Think

Jim Molpus, November 1, 2017
Jim Molpus
Jim Molpus

Clayton Christensen coined the phrase disruptive innovation two decades ago as a way of embracing the deconstruction that is necessary when a new technology displaces an old one.

Ever since then, it seems healthcare has been waiting for a series of disruptions to alter the course of the industry.

If there is a technology that could put healthcare in a blender for the next decade, it's the increasing scope of telehealth and its close relative, telemedicine.

In this month's cover story, senior editor Philip Betbeze looks at "The Adolescence of Telehealth," an apt analogy to describe the critical juncture that telehealth is in.

Telehealth and telemedicine, after all, are using people and technology to alter two fundamental pieces of healthcare: distribution and labor.

Telehealth fundamentally shifts the distribution of a good portion of healthcare clinical and nonclinical services outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar structures that have been used by American healthcare for decades: the hospital and the physician office.

Telehealth visits were a novelty not too long ago, and now have caught the consumer mainstream.

A 2017 study by American Well found that 50 million Americans would be willing to switch primary care providers if it meant getting access to video visits, up from 17 million in 2015.

It's safe to predict that consumer habits will continue to chase convenience and cost, especially in quick care areas of minor aches and ailments.

What healthcare is just starting to appreciate are the seismic shifts that could come to the physician and provider labor market as telehealth moves outside the few areas where it began.

Of course, there will always be the need for hands-on medicine.

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