If health is nurtured and made where we live, work, play pray, learn, and shop, then healthcare should be everywhere.
That’s the promise, increasingly a reality, of telehealth.
Follow that hashtag on Twitter and other social media channels, and you’ll find lots of folks who believe, know, and live this.
My personal telehealth journey began with an online encounter in December 1996 when my husband and I were in Hanoi, Vietnam, adopting our daughter. Six months old at the time, she was placed in our arms and, miraculously, across thousands of miles and national borders, our family was born. Here’s a photo of us shot within an hour of first meeting each other.
While this adoption required us to be in-person to meet our child, wait some days for the official adoption ceremony in her home province, and then obtain her visa and passport to fly back to the U.S., there was a digital telemedicine touchpoint which was the first of countless others I would initiate and benefit from as a new parent.
Anna’s sweet little head had some sort of rash or sores I didn’t recognize. So we pulled out my husband’s (very bulky) computer he brought overseas for business, dialed up on a modem line, and clicked us into the Prodigy network.
Most of you will not know what I’m referring to with “Prodigy.”
Prodigy was one of several online communities at the time, with America Online and Compuserve, that enabled the newly-online to create an email address, email others in the Prodigy (or other) network (walled gardens that they were), and access online communities addressing all sorts of interests from food and travel to news and, of course, health.
Like many moms who were going online to seek medical counsel — from a table in the Hanoi hotel’s lobby lounge – I identified a pediatrician who had a Prodigy site: DrGreene.com. As it states on his website today, “DrGreene.com went online in December 1995 to address this need [to scale his expertise beyond his face-to-face practice in northern California]. The AMA has called this the ‘pioneer physician website.'”
A Prodigy member could ask Dr. Greene questions and, amazingly, he would respond to a concerned parent’s question with his experienced pediatrician-informed and empathic response.
I typed in our question about Anna’s scalp rash and within a day or two received a response from Dr. Greene.
He calmed down this new Mom and once we landed in Bangkok enroute to the U.S., we had Anna checked out at a large teaching hospital who treated what turned out to be a simple dermatological issue. Of course, it’s common for new Moms (and Dads too) to catastrophize what we do not know, clinically, in our babies. And Dr. Greene calmed me down via his online Zen-like pediatrician presence.
Ten years later (ten years!), Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya convened the first Health 2.0 Conference of which I was an early advisor and, truly, family member.
What an amazing moment it was at the first Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco when I met — face-to-face — with Dr. Alan Greene — my Prodigy Pediatrician with whom I connected online for medical advice a decade before.
Fast-forward over the past 26 years since becoming a Mom, two and a half decades in which I’ve been involved with the emergence of the Internet in health care, and the evolution of dial-up telemedicine largely funded through government grants to today, with numerous business models supporting countless flavors of telehealth and virtual health flows.
Couple that experience with my other work-flows across the health/care ecosystem, bolstering determinants of health and well-being outside of the brick-and-mortar legacy medical system — through food and nutrition; mobility and transportation; financial services and medical banking; the environment, climate change, and growing call for ESG commitments across the healthcare ecosystem; and, of course, connectivity as an underpinning that helps channel health care, knowledge and support. I am all-in on #TelehealthIsHealth.
For a fun blast-from-the-telehealth-past, see this paper I wrote on behalf of the California Health Care Foundation in 2008 (!) called Right Here, Right Now: Ten Telehealth Pioneers Make It Work.
Amazingly, 14 years after CHCF published this paper, so many folks I featured as pioneers are still at it — taking the long view and making the long bet on telehealth-as-health. Kudos and warmest regards to Dr. Joseph Kvedar (Immediate Past Chair of the ATA), Dr. Jay Sanders (Founder and President Emeritus of the ATA), Dr. Roy Schoenberg (Co-Founder of American Well), Dr. Sal Volpe, Sandeep Agate, Nicholas Augustinos, and Alex Nason.
These pioneers are still Right Here, Right Now helping make health/care better…and I’m grateful to all of them, and of course, to Dr. Greene.
Finally, kudos to Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of ATA, who is leading the charge….