Taking on the mass media on telehealth: in this corner…

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Neil Versel, who now parks his notepad at Mobihealthnews, takes on the mass media covering the healthcare/technology beat in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review of 6 Jan. Donning his boxing gloves (no bare knucks, this is the CJR), Neil gets into the ring and lands solid blows, categorizing some of these writers as being ‘hopelessly stuck in the past.’ He doesn’t spare the ‘medical establishment’ either.

  • The fight venue: the New England Journal of Medicine/American Health Association-presented/Yale University study which had heart patients telephoning in their vital signs. This was taken up by the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and other media as confirmation that ‘telehealth’ didn’t work.
  • The right hook: Dr. Chaudry’s methodology used old technology that isn’t telehealth as those of us here define it, relying on patients to make inbound phone calls via IVR–no remote patient monitoring via devices was involved. (In fact it was shocking to Ed. Donna that as high as 55% did participate for a time!)
  • The upper cut: these writers stayed stuck in the 20th century and (by inference) didn’t do their homework. “Instead of blindly complimenting the good intentions of an experiment that was, in fact, almost bound to fail, the Times should have been asking about more modern forms of telemedicine, such as active monitoring from portable sensors that take readings in real time, just like telemetry equipment in hospitals.”
  • The combination, and lights out. No spoiler here–read the article. Tele-what? Reporters must embrace the future with coverage of remote health monitoring

[Ed. note] A point that was outside Neil’s article was that telehealth customers, mainly provider and plan-side, did hear about the Chaudry study through the mass media coverage, putting companies into a defensive, damage-control mode. If you consider the Mark Twain/Winston Churchill quote, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”…no surprise.