telemedicine technology
Employee Benefits

Where Does Technology Fit in Healthcare?

Travis Dent
Travis Dent
Sr. Vice President, Employee Benefits

I won’t give you my exact age as part of this blog, but I’ll give you a key indicator: I got my first cell phone in 2001. It was a Nokia with an external antenna, and at the time, it felt like incredible technology.

You see, I had an internship with Black & Decker that had me taking care of the Home Depot accounts in Lubbock, Texas, where my University was, as well as stores in Midland, Odessa, and Amarillo. With the previously mentioned cities being two hours in either direction from Lubbock, my parents insisted I have a cell phone while on the road. At the time, I didn’t think much of it and only used the phone to call home or chat with friends during the long bouts of abject boredom on the roads of West Texas (if you’ve ever driven through Happy, Texas, on your way to Amarillo you know exactly what I’m talking about).

What I didn’t realize is that my life would never be the same. Mine is one of the last generations to have a pre-technology and post-technology life and remember exactly what it was like in both. I won’t bore you with stories of the good-old days as I’m not that old, and in this post-technology world, you stopped reading this about 4 sentences ago as you’ve had three alarms go off on one of your apps, a meeting reminder, and your friend just posted a pic of their breakfast on Facebook. It’s been a big day.

Kidding aside, technology has revolutionized the world we live in and how we live in it. I’m not a technology critic and am not going to spend the few precious sentences we have together lambasting how we now connect thumb-to-thumb rather than face to face. No, I’m going to make a simple connection about technology in healthcare and how it continues to evolve our industry: Telemedicine.

While not a new concept, telemedicine has only really started to explode with employers and carriers alike in the last two years. With the advances in camera and video-chat technology, along with the overwhelming acceptance of smartphones and tablets, we now have a new doctor’s office environment. Telemedicine is transforming the way we access care with virtual waiting rooms, access to highly trained physicians with an average waiting time of less than 10 minutes, and often lower-than-average copays and/or out-of-pocket costs. The technology shouldn’t replace people’s relationship with their primary care physician and isn’t intended to be your only touchpoint with a medical professional in a given year. However, what it can help with are the cost and inconvenience of urgent and emergency care facilities people often use for routine health needs.

Employers are embracing the technology, and employees are benefiting from the cost and convenience. So, if you haven’t yet, give it a shot. If you don’t have it as part of your plan, do some research and see what it might look like within your company. While certainly not the juggernaut of your first cell phone, telemedicine is here to stay and is a pretty great advance in the marriage of healthcare and technology.

I wish you a happy start to 2018, and now I’m off to see if I can find that 2001 Nokia phone…I’m going vintage this year!

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