Is telemedicine over- or underhyped?

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At the Cleveland Clinic 2020 Medical Innovation Summit, a panel of health system IT executives gathered to discuss the big issues in digital innovation today.

The discussion, moderated by CNBC reporter Chrissy Farr, included Boston-based Mass General Brigham Chief Digital Health Officer Alistair, Erskine, MD; Cleveland Clinic CIO Matt Kull; Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health Chief Digital and Technology Officer Angela Yochem; and Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer Richard Zane, MD. While all panelists agreed that telehealth would be essential in the future, each organization was at a different stage of telehealth roll-out when the pandemic began and has different goals now.

"Our big initiative is deconstructing silos of bricks and mortar care, virtual care, synchronous communication and asynchronous communication so one patient isn't launched from one modality to another, but really we can blur the lines and take incremental patients with that capacity that we've realized," said Dr. Zane. "That's been pretty thrilling."

Ms. Farr posed the following question to the panel: Is telemedicine over- or underhyped? Here are abbreviated versions of each panelist's response.

Dr. Richard Zane: Underhyped. "The future of whatever we describe as virtual care will revolve around scaling quickly and robustly.

Dr. Alistair Erskine: Overhyped. "Virtual care is the new black right now. We are at the top of the curve; we went from 100 visits to 12,000 visits a day but we still have to digitally upscale our providers and our patients; the ones that are not used to navigating across the new technologies themselves. And we have to worry about payment reform. Right now, [telehealth] is hot because it's paid for. In the future, it may not be paid for and may slip more into a value-based care arrangement, because there is still value."

Matt Kull: Underhyped. "As we look to partner in our patients' healthcare over lifetime; we can't expect everyone to stay in Northwest Ohio or Florida, or the other places we may be looking to expand to. This digital mean is how we are going to be able to take people from the beginning to the end of their life."

Angela Yochem: Underhyped. "Digital health is a big way we offer access to care in unprecedented ways, not just entirely [through] digital means but digitally enhancing traditional means of care delivery."

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