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Telemedicine’s Evolutionary Leap: Who says you can’t teach an old Darwin new tricks?

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Dynamic personnel shifts, technology embrace, and significant behavior change will allow for rapid evolution of the healthcare industry and create the opportunity for alliances across the care continuum.

Healthcare is evolving.

Sometimes it seems slow and Darwinian, akin to his description of a gradual accumulation of small variations over long periods of time.

However, Darwinism also allows that the speed of evolutionary processes can be influenced by a variety of forcing mechanisms favoring change.  Healthcare evolution can feel more rapid as a system and a workforce adapt to external variables even while maintaining a central tenet and mission.

In healthcare, a silver lining from the current crisis is that new pressures are dislodging old constraints as a matter of necessity. This will enable the success of innovative approaches that seemed inevitable, but never really managed to arrive. Similar to evolution, life and optimal adaptation find a way.

Telemedicine is an oft-quoted example in the current environment. With recent regulation relaxation on barriers to reimbursement, both patients and money are flowing into the space. And when money flows, business models and investment become viable where they previously weren’t.

New constraints will arise, but the field has undoubtedly shifted. Recalling classic operational dynamics, there is always a rate-limiting step influencing the rate law for a reaction or process. If one rate limiter slowing progress for telemedicine was regulatory restriction on reimbursement (thus discouraging business model innovation and viability), things have changed very quickly. The rate law, or accessibility to viable utilization, has dropped.

But this dislodging then raises the next set of rate-limiting steps that will dictate the pace of growth in this space. These other inputs —personnel, technology, behavior — are non-trivial.

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