The U.S. healthcare system is currently in the midst of debate over how valuable tele medicine is to providing quality healthcare. Our debate is not unique. They are having a similar debate north of the border, where tele medicine exploded during the COVID pandemic. Paying attention to what doctors are saying in Canada may give us some insight into why some doctors are still skittish about tele medicine.
According to the Times Colonist out of British Columbia, the number of tele medicine visits in BC jumped by 2,000% during the pandemic. It was inevitable. Just like here in the States, Canadian officials shut down all non-essential services. That included primary care. The only way a Canadian resident could see their doctor was virtually.
Looking back on it now, Canadian doctors are concerned about the prevalence of tele medicine moving forward. And if you listen closely to what they say, it sounds like they are afraid of being replaced. That is completely understandable in a single-payer system.
Replacing Us with Bots
I am no doctor or nurse. I’m a writer. About ten years ago, there was a push in my industry to transition from human writers to writing bots. The thinking back then was that bots had become so sophisticated as to be able to write content that was indistinguishable from that written by human beings. Many of my colleagues were terrified they were on the verge of losing their jobs.
A decade later, the writing bot experiment has been an utter failure. Writing bots can do a lot of things, but they cannot replicate human thought. They cannot compete on writing quality, nuance, storytelling, etc. Needless to say, I am still gainfully employed.
It is understandable if some healthcare professionals feel like they are on the verge of being replaced by tele medicine. But like writing bots, tele medicine kiosks can only do so much. They cannot replace human doctors and nurses. And guess what? They are not intended to.
Acting As a Middleman
CSI Health is a Manufacturer of Medical Kiosks that designs and build state-of-the-art medical kiosks. They explain that what they build is more or less an intermediary between patient and healthcare provider. A typical medical kiosk is designed to facilitate communication and the exchange of information. That’s it. There isn’t a healthcare kiosk out there capable of making a diagnosis, creating a treatment plan, and offering a prognosis.
No one in the tele medicine industry is looking to put doctors and nurses out of work. Rather, the goal is to remove the inefficiencies of healthcare delivery through technology. And make no mistake about it, modern healthcare is not nearly as efficient as it could or should be.
The Pandemic Proved It
It’s fine to discuss all the benefits of doctors and patients meeting face-to-face. Many of us would not doubt those benefits. But as patients, we see firsthand just how inefficient the system is. Unfortunately for us, we are the ones who most suffer from those inefficiencies.
A doctor’s work day isn’t any longer because we sit in a waiting room for an hour. Their office hours are already set. Likewise, the claims processor at the insurance company isn’t inconvenienced by a patient’s commute to and from the office. The inefficiencies of modern healthcare delivery affect patients the most. Telemedicine tackles some of those inefficiencies to put the patient on a more level plain field.
There is no doubt that some doctors are still skittish about tele medicine. Perhaps it’s because they fear they may be replaced. Such fears may be reasonable, but they are completely unfounded. Clinicians are not going to lose their jobs to medical kiosks.