People in a medical classroomCisco and UnitedHealth Group announced last week a new partnership to build the first national telehealth network.  Calling Connected Care “the house call for the 21st century,” United’s CEO Stephen Helmsley added that it will “make it easier for people to receive care where distance has been an obstacle.”

Some thoughts on this:

  • Will new technology reverse the need for medical tourism? Doctors are already performing procedures remotely using robotics. In fact, SRI International developed the first ‘telepresence surgery’ technology for the U.S. military way back in the 80s.
  • Will it help the affluent reach highly-paid doctors wherever they are, or is it a leveler for the underserved here in the U.S. and elsewhere? The latter seems to be one area that UnitedHealth Group is addressing with the concept of mobile telehealth clinics.
  • Will technology ever be able to replace the value of the human contact of a traditional doctor visit? Maybe not completely, but I bet it will come pretty close.

One thing is for sure, as digital bandwidth increases and gets less expensive, technologies like these will make sense in more and more situations.  It may not be too long until a traveler can use her smartphone and an Internet connection to receive high quality medical advice on the go with two-way video and audio.  The iPhone’s new support of third-party hardware integration has also been often cited as a natural place for healthcare devices to emerge.

Of course, there will always be the potential for tension between a telehealth opinion and the treatment options immediately available or the opinion of a hands-on physician. Let your imagination wander and let us know where you think telehealth will lead!

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About The Author

Andrew Orr, Jr. serves as a Special Projects Director. Andy is responsible for taking the product development lead for certain large products being launched, including HTH Mobile and HTH Appointment Scheduling. Andy has an extensive entrepreneurial and technical background. He has served as HTH IT Director in the past as well as president of a number of entrepreneurial businesses. Andy earned his Master of Business Administration from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and his Bachelor of Science degree from Yale University.

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