Telemedicine’s Tipping Point

In Telemedicine by H. Jack West, MD1 Comment

Though telemedicine hasn’t really become mainstream yet, I think we’re on the cusp of this approach reaching a tipping point. Though the grumbling has been that there has been smoldering interest in telemedicine for a long time, it continues to fly under the radar, with its devoted following, but only the leading edge.

That said, we are only now entering a time when high speed internet is so pervasive, while more and more people now have Facetime and Skype readily available and being used on their phones, laptops, and tablet computers that it’s becoming feasible for a much broader range of the population to interact via video-based teleconferencing effortlessly. It’s no longer the tech-savvy gadget people doing this. Like many other grandparents, my folks are now using Skype to communicate with their grandchildren. Folks in their 70s, as well as kids under 6, are now doing video chats. And it’s only when the technology becomes so easy it’s boring that it really takes off.

For years before digital cameras or e-book readers took over the world, we read articles saying “the technology seems to be there, yet it isn’t catching on yet. Will it ever really happen?” It did, and the new technology became completely disruptive. All of the elements are in place for telemedicine to transform how health care is practiced, and in the next couple of years, the articles will cover the changes that are actually being realized, rather than just the promise of telemedicine.


  1. I completely agree that telemedicine will inevitably reach a tipping point in the future. The cool thing about this is that in my field of psychopharmacology, the need for a handwritten narrative document that demonstrates a mutual understanding of the emotions, cognition and physical experience an individual presents with continues. I am now able to email to the individual at the time of service a handwritten document with medication recommendations, diet and exercise instructions, as well as followup with primary care and lab testing recommendations real time to the individual after reviewing a rapid neuropsychiatric screen that takes 3 minutes to fill out. This document can be perceived as a contract of understanding of health maintenance and when carried in a purse or brief case encourages adherence and appropriate supermarket shopping and is enduring.

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