Viewpoint: Why telehealth is 'the Netflix of medicine'

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As mobile and app-based interactions have transformed consumerism over the past five years, telehealth has experienced growth that has outpaced even Netflix's digital consumerism model, according to Joseph DeVeau, MD.

In a Feb. 24 American Medical Association column, Dr. DeVeau, a family physician with Fayetteville-based First Georgia Physician Group, explained that telehealth is becoming a "highly competitive landscape," similar to Netflix within the streaming services market or Instagram with photo- and video-sharing social media platforms.

"Yet no single telehealth app or provider has emerged as leader of the pack in the same way that Instagram, for instance, dominates the photo- and video-sharing social media game," Dr. DeVeau wrote. "Telehealth remains a highly competitive landscape."

The number of Netflix streaming subscribers doubled from 59 million to 118 million between 2015 and 2017. During the same period, telemedicine patient visits increased by 261 percent, Dr. DeVeau wrote.

While telehealth's growth "outpaced Netflix," Dr. DeVeau explained that healthcare organizations and providers must treat their patients as consumers when rolling out virtual care solutions.

Consumers today can stream new movie releases from the comfort of their home on all types of smart devices or even have groceries delivered to their doorstep after ordering on an app. In healthcare, telehealth must be reframed as a tool for patient engagement to help break down adoption barriers by keeping patients involved in their care management.

Dr. DeVeau, who also serves as virtual health medical director at Privia Health, a national physician organization focused on healthcare delivery for physicians and consumers, wrote that telehealth is an effective tool to help connect patients to their physicians by alleviating challenges with scheduling, mobility or transportation.

Privia Medical Group is an AMA Health System Program partner.

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