Telehealth’s Butterfly Moment

Atrium Health CEO Eugene Woods believes that something beautiful is about to happen in healthcare. In a keynote speech at the 2018 Healthcare Transformation Summit in Texas, Woods said, “It’s not about making a better caterpillar, but about making the metamorphosis into a butterfly” that brings greater value to patients.

Woods noted that all the gadgets and digital tools we’ve added in the last decade won’t be enough to complete the transformation. It will take human agility and empathy to truly revolutionize the system through telehealth.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, also feels that we’re tantalizingly close to seeing the emergence of a seamless, patient-centric system. He reminded Summit attendees that no one uses the term “telebanking” when checking their balance online – and he recommended ditching the word “telehealth” altogether. Klasko prefers to talk about “meeting patients’ needs in the same flexible way they consume every other consumer good.”

Another Summit session explored how telehealth can make population health management more than a buzzword. Many poor communities have dollars earmarked for healthcare, but local residents don’t know how to find them. That’s why Atrium Health recently created the Community Resource Hub, an online tool that connects patients with community organizations that can assist them in applying for funds.

To make this patient-first metamorphosis happen, physicians need to be less wary of artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms. Summit panelists noted that AI already plays an important role, like in the speech-to-text software that turns a doctor’s dictation into written notes. But many physicians fear that AI-aided diagnoses will put them out of business – when in fact it will increase the time they can spend with patients.

If 2018 is truly the year when the new paradigm breaks free from its cocoon, it will benefit everyone – especially the healthcare consumers who have been patiently waiting for it to take flight.