Telemedicine Is Not Thriving

Carl Weinschenk
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Telemedicine continues to get rave reviews in the press. What could be better than providing good care to folks who are either too sick or too far away to make it to the doctor’s office?

A story by a couple of doctors suggests that telemedicine is not being used much at all, however. Most telemedicine companies, the writers say, are struggling to hit about a 3 percent usage rate.

There appear to be three reasons. Interactions, despite the claims of great technological advances, are mostly plain old telephone. Often, there is one doctor on call who can only handle a single call at a time. Finally, according to the writers, there is poor continuity between telemedicine companies and the doctors.


The story suggests a downward spiral:

Although nearly 85 percent of those insured in the U.S. currently have some remote access service provided through their job, utilization among employed Americans remains dismal. The ability to state, ‘we offer telemedicine’ seems to have given payer-side executives a sense of relief that a requirement has been met, yet few are impressed with the ROI performance of national telemedicine platforms.

Extreme Buying Zebra

Extreme Networks this week said that it will acquire the wireless local-area network (WLAN) business of Zebra Technologies for $55 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. The core of Zebra’s wireless products were part of its $3.45 billion acquisition of Motorola Solutions two years ago, the story said.

Extreme said that Zebra’s products will increase its participation in the retail, transportation and hospitality markets and become part of the ExtremeWireless line. Products moving to Extreme include the WiNG wireless operating system, NSight for advanced network troubleshooting and AirDefense security.

Mobileye Breaks with Tesla

This week, IT Business Edge posted on progress being made in the autonomous vehicle sector. This technology relies heavily on many IT and telecommunications tools. There is a problem in the highly competitive field, however. The Wall Street Journal reports that Mobileye has broken ties with Tesla Motors because it wasn’t comfortable with the design of the automaker’s Autopilot driver assistance system.

The Autopilot feature is designed to help drivers stay in their lane and steer on highways. Mobileye’s chief technology officer said that the system isn’t designed for driverless uses, though it is used in that manner by some drivers. Instead, its proper use is to assist the human in control. The issue is an important one: The story reports a fatality in China involving Tesla Model S using the system.

T-Mobile Makes Play for AT&T 2G IoT Subscribers

Bandwidth is a precious commodity. Carriers, for that reason, generally transition older networks to newer. AT&T, for instance, is shutting down its 2G network at the end of the year.

The challenge is that AT&T has Internet of Things (IoT) subscribers on the 2G network. This week, T-Mobile sought to take advantage of the situation by offering free service to those subscribers who may be displaced by the move. It is letting them switch to T-Mobile’s 2G network free through the end of the year. The press release says that T-Mobile is offering 50 megabytes of data and a SIM card for free.

The Rise of the Machines Is Near

A study by Forrester gives no solace to those worried about robots taking over human jobs. The report, written by Brian Hopkins, says that by 2021, robots will do 6 percent of the jobs currently done by humans. He terms this “a disruptive tidal wave.”

The most obvious signs to date of the rise of the machines are autonomous vehicles and robotic customer service representatives. The story on the report at The Guardian points out that Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google now interface regularly with humans. This trend will accelerate and grow more sophisticated:

For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of break-throughs like self-driving cars.

The follow-on issues that no doubt will grow in parallel with the rise of robotics are finding jobs for the displaced and workforce retraining.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 16, 2016 2:30 PM Roger Downey Roger Downey  says:
Carl, the topic of your blog article is actually Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) Telehealth - not telemedicine. Traditional telemedicine uses the same medical devices a physician would use in his office to examine a patient, and the doctor sees the patient, data and images live during the remote session. D2C Telehealth is primarily for interactions with previously unknown consumers who pay a fee upfront to speak to a doctor on the phone. They describe their symptoms and seek an antibiotic prescription, so they're basically self-diagnosing. There is no examination and only a brief medical history. When they do call, it's because they have a cold, the flu, a sore throat or an earache even though these maladies are most often caused by viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, only on bacterial infections. And there is no way a doctor can confirm a bacterial infection during a phone call. Telemedicine visits, on the other hand, are virtual in-person visits that provide the physician with evidence-based data. Reply

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