Closing the Telehealth Gap [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Alan_Pitt_telehealthGuest: Dr. Alan Pitt
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dr. Alan Pitt is the Chief Medical Officer at Avizia and attending physician and Professor of Neuroradiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute. Over the past two decades Dr. Pitt has worked at the nexus of computers and medicine. He believes that aligning patients with the right person at the right time, can replace fear and anxiety with reassurance, and prevent unnecessary system costs.

Segment overview: Dr. Alan Pitt, Chief Medical Officer at Avizia and attending physician and professor of neuroradiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute discusses the 2016 National Telemedicine Survey report called Closing The Telehealth Gap.

Health Professional Radio – Telehealth

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program today, I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you so much for joining us here at Health Professional Radio. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Alan Pitt, Chief Medical Officer of Avizia and Attending Physician and Professor of Neuroradiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute. He’s here with us to discuss the 2016 National Telemedicine Survey Report called ‘Closing the Telehealth Gap.’ Welcome to Health Professional Radio this afternoon Dr. Pitt.

Dr. Alan Pitt: Thank you very much, I appreciate being here.

N: Thank you. The National Telemedicine Survey Report: Closing the Telehealth Gap, first of all what is your definition of telemedicine?

P: So telemedicine for me is a bit more, is a bit of a broader term than is typically used. So when most people talk about telemedicine they think about television, monitors if you will, of being connected over a distance. When I think about telemedicine, I think about it as to have the opportunity of bringing two people together over a distance and the distance could be 8 miles or 8 floors with a hospital. The real question is how do you bring those people together in a sustainable way that provides value in patient care. So you could bring two people together over a secure texting, you could bring people together over the phone or it could be a full video stream as most people think about telemedicine. My passion, my belief is that what’s really missing in health care today is the opportunity to provide reassurance for the patients, for their family member and for the less skilled provider. Data is something that’s very important but really I’m looking for ways to bring those people together so that I can provide reassurance and avoid costly things like extra lab work, x-rays, transfers of patients. And so the technology is an enabler of that core mission which is how do we provide reassurance within health care.

N: Let’s talk about this gap within telemedicine, this survey that was conducted. Who was behind this survey?

P: So the survey was really of health care leaders across the country. We wanted to get a sense of where the market was, what people were thinking about in terms of telemedicine and as you may know telemedicine has been an evolution, really. The history of telemedicine it started with NASA, it was an effort to try to provide health care for astronauts in space and part of it came out of history around Russian Kosmanov where actually supposed to draw blood on each other and they kind of got into a little bit of brawl in space and NASA was really worried that if they couldn’t provide health care to the astronauts that missions would suffer. So they developed technology that would allow health care to be deployed in space. The next step in telemedicine was really to bring it back to the US and it was deployed within whole America. How do we help people who don’t have access to care at great distance? And so much of what happened in telemedicine initially was all around rural access and that really has been something of a legacy. That’s was most people think about when they think about telemedicine. Today as we move forward in healthcare we need to find better tools to bring hospital administrator, excuse me, to bring hospital providers together not only at a distance but also within the hospital itself. It can be just as much of a barrier to health if you live a hundred miles away or if you have a bus ride and you can’t see the doctor you need to see or your child may be at school. Telemedicine is encompassing all of those things, it’s a question of where did the market see itself today. So the survey was really about asking folks, where do you see telemedicine today?

N: Now in the findings, did you identify maybe one key or the biggest barrier to effectively bringing people together? What was that one thing that we need to be focusing on going forward?

P: Well there were a couple of things that I think that really worth pointing out. So first and foremost I think telemedicine is evolving and so many of the used cases that we’re using telemedicine for are legacy as cases and those are all growing which is great but there’s a very large upside to telemedicine that needs to be explored. So the used cases that were highlighted were stroke, behavior health and staff education or training, those are the top three used cases and that was followed by primary care. Although great to have stroke out there as a lead, stroke is something that is a bit of an older model, we clearly can provide a lot of value but there’s so many other opportunities really to improve care through the continuum. The thing that I found perhaps most striking was that there are clearly changes in attitude by many hospital administrators in terms of how they’re looking at telehealth. So whereas in a not so distant past people would talk about executive resistance to telehealth and that was a very minor positive response, only 4% of executives had resistance to telehealth today. The major things that seem to be top of mind were issues related to investment in technology and infrastructure to support telehealth and really the biggest struggle there is one around competing opportunities moving forward in the world of value based care. Of many health care systems are struggling to find the supporting structures to enable different forms of care delivery and so I think telemedicine is really competing against a lot of parallel initiatives for data and meaningful use.

N: In the beginning of our conversation, we had a little bit of, I guess an issue with the terms that are being used, the understanding, the thinking about telemedicine, telehealth when we’re talking you used telemedicine, you used telehealth. Are the terms interchangeable or is there a subtle or a glaring difference in the two terms as it relates to understanding and changing the conversation to provide better collaboration?

P: Well I think the word medicine and health are terms that are evolving in the American Lexicon, right? So traditionally medicine has been about fixing the sick whereas health has been about maintaining your health and I think generally here in this country we’re moving towards more preventative wellness than treating the sick. That being said the technologies, the used cases are very similar between telemedicine and telehealth. It’s really again this opportunity to provide the right care at the right time so that the human touch if you will, ironically it’s a virtual touch can be enabled to reduce the cost of care while improving outcomes.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. And we’ve been in studio with Dr. Alan Pitt, Chief Medical Officer at Avizia and Attending Physician and Professor of Neuroradiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute talking about the 2016 National Telemedicine Report called Closing the Telehealth Gap. It’s been great having you here with us today Doctor.

P: Thank you.

N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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