Telemedicine and the Moral Arc of History


President Obama last month invoked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in relation to the Iranian situation: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." The comment and Obama's use of it came to mind when reading, of all things, a Cisco announcement.

The vendor and UnitedHealthcare announced this week
that they will cooperate on Connected Care, a platform that will bring advanced healthcare to rural and underserved areas. This dovetails nicely with the broadly defined goals of the broadband stimulus monies.

The obvious connection between King's famous comment and Cisco's announcement is that the road to broadband for all citizens-though it may take a meandering course through arcane regulatory and legislative subcommittees and lobbyists' offices-is inexorable, and is for the good. The announcement by Cisco -- which is one among many -- shows that it is a road that the nation is actively traveling.

It's important to use analogies carefully. Congressman Peter Hoekstra found this out last month, to the amusement of the blogosphere. In this case, however, the use of the analogy is justified. True equality extends to equal access to resources. Ultimately, this comes down to finding the technology to deliver the same number of bits and bytes to Brownwood, Texas, and Apple Creek, Ohio, as to New York City and LA.


The Ciscos of the world have to be onboard for this to happen. Indeed, it's not really an analogy at all: The drive to provide people with the same access to education, healthcare and other vital services regardless of where they live is a vital part of the overall drive for civil rights. The arc that King and Obama addressed is symbolized in the evolution over the years of the discussion. It has moved from a focus on the basic concept of equality to a focus on the technological means of realizing this particular manifestation of equality.

Cisco and UnitedHealthcare aren't alone, of course. For instance, InTouch Health is expanding its remote presence telehealth platform. This release says that the four-system family will be displayed this week at the Fourth Annual Remote Presence Clinical Innovations Forum in Santa Barbara, Calif. The release describes the family, which includes the RP-7 Robotic System, RP-Lite, Multi-Presence and StrokeRESPOND.


The bottom line, though, is that the debate over legislative reform, coupled with the advance of technology, suggests that our nation is slowly-perhaps agonizingly slowly-arcing toward the moral point of providing equal access to healthcare. It's good to see that companies such as Cisco are committed to doing some of the nuts and bolts work that will make that goal a reality.