telemedicineThis week I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Arlen Meyers’ presentation “Telemedicine: Is 2013 the breakout year?” at the Health Innovation Angel Network hosted by the Innovation Pavilion in Centennial, Colorado, USA. Arlen is at the heart of the biosciences industry in Colorado. He takes a global view on healthcare delivery and technology, as well as keeping an eye towards the industry’s future. Here are some highlights that I took away from the presentation:

Barriers to Telemedicine Will Remain High

The distribution of healthcare services is vastly uneven. Those who need especially specialized services may be unable to access those services near where they live. Obviously this is one of main issues that telemedicine addresses. But barriers to a more integrated and virtual global healthcare delivery model are significant and cannot be solved without significant international effort.  For instance, licensing and credentialing to practice medicine is a relatively localized process. Are all medical professionals’ training and practice created equal? Not in the eyes of the local boards. There is also the issue of liability when something goes wrong in treatment. If my doctor is from Mumbai and their actions cause me harm, there is no current way for me to receive damages for harm done. Many countries have tight security requirements for a patient’s medical data. But what if an American physician and patient consult with a Korean colleague via video conferencing? Then there is the question of how and when a medical professional can be reimbursed for their services delivered through telemedicine. And finally, internationalization has its own issues around cultural differences, language, business practices, currency fluctuation risks, international tax filings and international law. Obviously telemedicine has a long way to go.

Free Medical Zones in Dubai & Soon in Turkey

An interesting development to watch is the creation of Free Medical Zones. These are similar to Free Trade Zones in many ways. They allow medical staff from all over the world to practice medicine in the zone, offering a space for collaboration and the opportunity to practice medicine both in-house and via telemedicine. For more information about the Free Medical Zone in Dubai and the Free Medical Zone coming soon in Turkey, please click the links.

Telemedicine Becoming the Norm in Some Applications

Some medical disciplines and processes are much better suited to telemedicine than others. Tele psychiatry, for instance, is widely accepted and practiced, because of the flexibility that teleconferencing provides both patient and physician. For some healthcare providers telemedicine is the standard of care for radiology and pathology services. It also is being used to reach patients in remote rural locations.

2013 Will NOT be a Breakout Year for Telemedicine

According to Dr. Meyers, 2013 will likely see incremental improvement and growth in telemedicine industry. Fiscal crisis in particularly the United States will drive adaptation of non face-to-face modalities of care. Healthcare organizations and businesses will continue to experiment with various care and business models, including telemedicine. And the healthcare and telemedicine industries will continue to stay fragmented.

About Dr. Arlen Meyers: Dr. Meyers is a professor of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado Denver. He is cofounder of www.medvoy.com, a globally integrated, doctor-to-doctor referral platform. He has created several other medical device companies. Dr. Meyers is the founding CEO and President of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. He is the co-chairman of the International Bioentrepreneurship Education Summit, Associate Editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology at www.commercialbiotechnology.com, and Editor In Chief of Medscape Reference Otolaryngology and SOPE Magazine.