We’ve probably all heard the announcements by airline pilots warning that “we might encounter some turbulence” on the flight ahead. For the hospital industry—at least as far as the physician shortage is concerned—the announcements are long since over. We’re flying directly through the turbulence as we enter 2020, and it’s only going to get bumpier in the decade ahead.
Businesses understand today that customers want more than one way to interact with them. Ordering products online. Checking reviews on mobile apps. Joining company communities on social media. 2019 saw healthcare’s evolution in the same multi-channel direction. No longer is it a single visit to the doctor or hospital. Today’s healthcare is a series of interactions with multiple access points or “front doors,” some personal, some digital—outpatient clinic visits, email conversations with doctors or clinical staff, online checking of lab results or Q&As on a patient portal, virtual doctor visits. It was the new model of healthcare in 2019.
At first glance, one might think that telemedicine wouldn’t be the best medium for diagnosing and treating patients with infectious diseases (IDs). There is, after all, nothing to “listen to” in conditions of sepsis, infected wounds from diabetes or other ailments, meningitis, osteomyelitis, methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) or other infections—nothing a stethoscope on a videoconferencing cart can pick up from the sound of a patient’s heartbeat or stomach. But look again.
It was abundantly clear in 2018 that there is a new reality in U.S. inpatient care. As I wrote in my year-end blog last month, most hospitals across the country have embraced the value equation telemedicine offers. No longer viewed as a novelty, telemedicine will continue to gain ground in hospitals in 2019—both in general hospitalist services and in a wider range of specialty offerings.