We sat down with Dr. Glenn Loomis, Chief Medical Officer at Simply Speak to gain his insight on telemedicine and what it means for the current and future practice of medicine.
1. Why are you an advocate of telemedicine?
I think most people aren’t that excited about having to go to a physician’s office. I know I’m not. So, telemedicine offers a solution where you can talk to your physician from the comfort of your home or office or some other remote location. It allows you to do many of the follow-up or minor visits without having to trek all the way to the physician’s office. There will never be a substitute for visiting the physician for certain problems, especially if the issue requires physical examination. However, about 70% of what I do as a family physician can probably be done via telemedicine.
2. Is the “genie out of the bottle?”
My team first implemented telemedicine in a Medical Group over six years ago. At that point, I believed we should be doing as much as 50% of our visits through telemedicine. Telemedicine as a technology was still a bit sketchy at that point. It didn’t work well all the time. The COVID-19 epidemic has really given telemedicine a boost. It has shown patients and physicians that telemedicine is a good solution for many more visits than either patients or physicians expected. I think it is also shown physicians that some patients, who they thought would not like telemedicine, such as older patients, are actually very willing to use telemedicine when it’s offered to them. So, in answer to your question, I do think the genie is out of the bottle! I believe moving forward you will see a larger and larger percentage of physician office visits will be done through telemedicine.
3. What do you think are the disadvantages of telemedicine?
I think the obvious disadvantage of telemedicine is that the physicians can only examine the patient in a very limited way. I think there are a few other disadvantages of telemedicine, such as the need for patients and physicians to have very high-resolution video. This results in the need for a stable, high bandwidth Internet connection. Unfortunately, in rural areas and other places this is not always available. Certain more vulnerable patient populations may have less access. But, the studies would say that the vast majority of patients have access to the Internet in a place where they can do telemedicine. So, we shouldn’t stop pressing for telemedicine just because a few patients may be disadvantaged and need to come to the office for their visit.
4. What do you think are the advantages of telemedicine?
I think the obvious advantage is the ability for both the physician and the patient to participate in a face-to-face interaction without having to be in the same physical space. Physicians can be at their home, in there cabin, in the mountains, or at the beach the patient can be at home, at work, or on vacation. No matter where the patient and physician are; they can come together virtually to continue the discussion of their medical issues and to receive the physician’s thoughts and treatments. The other advantage of telemedicine is a reduction in overhead costs for the physician. This should allow physicians in specialties such as primary care to have a much more solvent practice because they are not burdened with the normally high office overhead. I believe in the future you will often see two physicians who work out of the same space. Each will conduct half of their visits virtually for half of the day and in-person for the other half of the day. This allows the practice to see twice as many patients with the same rent. In high rent areas such as large cities this becomes a huge advantage.
5. Do you have to be tech savvy to use telemedicine?
I don’t think either patients or physicians need to be tech savvy to use telemedicine. Most of the current telemedicine platforms are very easy to use both for the patient and for the physician. Especially in this era business and personal calls over Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime, telemedicine just becomes an extension of what we’re doing in our everyday life.
Dr. Glenn Loomis is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Investor at Simply Speak. He is a Family Physician and the former Chief Medical Officer at Health Quest and President of Health Quest Medical Practice where he had day-to-day responsibility for the operation of a multi-specialty medical practice with more than 200 providers and over $90 million in revenue. Prior to Health Quest, he served as President of three medical groups. Dr. Loomis also served in multiple positions in the United States Air Force Medical Corps. Dr. Loomis earned his medical degree from Ohio State University College of Medicine.