Perspective: When Did Telemedicine Stop Being a Crazy Idea?


My Dad is a real estate agent – and a good one at that. Granted, I’m a little biased, but I know he takes great care and consideration to ensure his clients are happy and confident with their home purchase. Before each showing, he researches the house, learns its history, and even brings his own bag of tools to do his own minor inspections as he walks through the house. When he helped me with my first home purchase, he brought a leveling tool with him to check whether the hardwood floors were level (they were).

He’s that meticulous.

Having a son who works in telemedicine, my Dad is all too familiar with my musings about the future of care and its shift to a virtual setting. “I bet a decade ago you never would have guessed people would be calling their doctor for a video chat,” I said to him once. “Nope, it’s definitely something I didn’t expect,” he responded.

When I asked him about the possibility of people buying a house virtually, without ever stepping foot in it, he said, “That’s crazy. Buying a home is personal; people want to see and feel their new home.”

Fast forward a couple of years, my Dad called me to say he recently helped a couple purchase a new home in Atlanta. The couple were moving from California but were unable to fly out and look at houses, so, my Dad did the craziest thing – he showed the house via video chat.

It’s funny to imagine him showing the finer details of the house through the lens of his camera. From the inside of the kitchen cabinets to the bathroom faucets, to the view from kitchen window into the backyard. I bet the camera was shaking the entire time as he crawled into the attic. When I asked him about his earlier sentiment on how no one would buy a home without seeing it, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s crazy how fast things can change.”

My Dad is right, it is crazy how fast things can change – just look at telemedicine.

Times they are a-changin’

There’s a line in the classic Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are a Changing, that goes, “Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.” In healthcare, times are changing…and they are changing fast.

After nearly a decade in the peripheral of healthcare, telemedicine adoption is surging. Between 2014 and 2018, telehealth visits increased an astounding 1,400%. With the push to virtual care brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine visits topped 1 billion in 2020. Even more so, Deloitte predicts that virtual visits will rise to 5% globally, up from an estimated 1% in 2019. Compared to 2016, when only 15% of physicians worked in practices that used telemedicine, that is tremendous growth in a very short period of time.

I’ve also been made aware of this growth through several conversations I’ve had with colleagues and physicians over the last couple of years.

In November of 2020, I interviewed Dr. English, a Neurologist who practices Teleneurology with VirtualMed Staff. I asked him about the sentiment around telemedicine a decade ago and the type of pushback he received from his colleagues. His response, in many ways, mirrored what my Dad had said about touring homes virtually, “You have to see the patient in person,” Dr. English remarked.

Now, due in large part to COVID-19, Dr. English says his colleagues are practicing telemedicine from home and “loving every minute of it.” 

The VirtualMed Staff Sales team shared similar stories. When asked about the biggest changes they’ve seen in the last couple of years in terms of selling telemedicine solutions to hospitals and healthcare facilities, a comment from our Senior Director of Business Development, Tommy Binner, stood out. Tommy said, “Five years ago, I spent a lot of time simply explaining what telemedicine is, but we don’t have that problem anymore. Now, everyone wants to know how to make it work for their facility and patients.”

it’s no surprise the conversation around telemedicine changed so rapidly from what is it to how can we make this work. From patient adoption, to physicians loving every minute, to the conversation shifting for sales team, the idea of telemedicine being a crazy idea seems to have dissipated almost overnight.  

So, how do you make telemedicine work?

How to make telemedicine work

If the coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it’s that telemedicine works – and it works really well. The pandemic was the catalyst that forced healthcare facilities to fully test the concept of virtual care, in the same way the California couple forced my Dad to try the concept of virtual home buying.

In healthcare, we’ve reached that moment where healthcare leaders are noticing that it’s time to either change or sink like a stone. To answer their question about how to make telemedicine work, it takes a dedicated partner who takes great care and consideration to ensure clients are happy and confident with their telemedicine solution.

VirtualMed Staff spent years explaining what telemedicine is, now we want to show you how it works. Below are a few resources that will answer any initial questions you have. If you want to learn more, schedule a meeting with telemedicine consultant and let’s get started.