By Ed Simcox, Healthcare Practice Leader at Logicalis Healthcare Solutions

At the annual conference of the American Telemedicine Association this week in Los Angeles, attendees once again talked about federal legislation and administrative policies intended to increase the use of telehealth in the United States.

The tide is beginning to turn: the federal government appears to be on the brink of finally recognizing telehealth as a legitimate way to practice medicine on par with face-to-face patient encounters. Once federal regulations address reimbursement for telehealth, the floodgates will open. It’s an exciting time for those people that have been supporting and evangelizing telehealth over the last twenty years.

For an idea of how telehealth is going to transform healthcare, consider for a moment some of the “killer apps” currently transforming traditional service businesses: Airbnb for the lodging industry and Uber for ground transportation.

Airbnb has combined the power of cloud, social reputation, and mapping services to fundamentally disrupt the lodging industry. It allows home owners to connect and conduct business with travelers who need “an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month.” Travelers rate their experiences while hosts with better ratings receive more business and can raise their rates. Because of Airbnb, lodging rates are no longer only dictated by a given day’s “inventory” of hotel rooms.

Uber is having a similar impact on cab drivers by combining social reputation scoring, excellent e-commerce and billing, and real-time, value-based pricing. It’s a far cry from the era of dirty cabs with rude drivers that refuse to provide receipts. Uber drivers have a reputation to protect—the transparency and data provided to the customer drive a much higher level of service quality.

When it comes to telehealth, just think about the power of real-time cloud-based video combined with the power of social, reputation scoring, real-time price information, data transparency, scheduling, and e-commerce.

Then think about an app where you are able to price, choose, book, and see a caregiver by video—in real-time and on the go, wherever you are. And after your appointment, the same app will provide lab results, imaging studies, doctor notes, and a history of your appointments and payments.

Behind the scenes, this killer app will have access to multiple, disparate data sources to provide a seamless, intuitive patient experience. The success of this model will be dependent on large, powerful EHR software companies liberating the patient-owned and provider-owned data currently locked in their systems.

Exactly when legislation, regulations, capitulation from the EHR companies, and the new telehealth killer apps will all fall into place is anyone’s guess. But the changes are inevitable.

Prepare Now for the Telehealth Shift

Like the lodging and ground transportation industries, traditional healthcare delivery is about to be disrupted by telehealth. Today, healthcare organizations need to establish the necessary business sponsors, funding mechanisms, and technology foundation in preparation for the coming telehealth tipping point. Thought-leading healthcare providers are already preparing for the shift to telehealth, safeguarding them from the negative effects of telehealth’s creative disruption.

To find out more about building a technology foundation to support your telehealth initiative, visit the Logicalis website. Then check out this infographic that illustrates how changes are happening faster than you think.