Telemedicine For Everyone

Telemedicine For Everyone
Woman holding phone to ear, looking at a laptop, and sitting at a table with a large window behind her)
Did you know: Telemedicine and telemental health access is available to you. Have you tried it? Photo Credit: free for commercial use.

If you live in a large city, it’s likely you have already had your first experience with telemedicine.

Suppose on Day Seven of a nasty cold or flu, you decide it’s time to see your doctor. You call up your medical practitioner’s office and request an appointment. In smaller stand-alone practices, you would speak to a receptionist or scheduler, and you would be offered an appointment with your doctor based on his/her availability. In larger multiple-practitioner offices, you might be offered the option of seeing a different doctor other than your primary doctor if you wished to be seen sooner. Yet by phone, you’ve been triaged and placed into the schedule.

Most medical centers began using telephonic triage nurses to help patients get effective medical care in a timely manner, and also keep those who actually did not need to see their doctor from spreading colds and flus to others in a waiting room. Seattle is no exception, and I had the opportunity to work as a Telephonic Triage Nurse in 2011 and 2012. I am happy to report that I learned a lot about the effectiveness of telemedicine during that time!

Telemedicine, particularly in behavioral health settings, is an exciting option for those seeking counseling therapy. Yet perhaps you wonder, as I do, why more people aren’t using it more. Less than two percent of the inquires I receive from potential clients include a request for telemental counseling services (that is, sessions provided over an Internet connection using a HIPAA compatible video conferencing platform, or services provided over the phone).

Until last month, that is. I received an unprecedented number of inquiries about access to counseling sessions either by phone or by video conferencing. And I actually think this is very good news. Read on to find out why.

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Why Microsoft Purchase of Skype is Good For Business

As Skype was headed towards IPO (initial public offering), Microsoft stunned its investors last week with an $8.5M acquisition of the mostly IM (instant message) and voice calls company that has swept its competitors out of the way. Here’s why I think Microsoft’s purchase of Skype is good for business, and particularly why it’s good for you if you’re thinking of purchasing counseling or coaching services.

Already, you’ve seen Skype at work if you’ve watched your local TV station for news, Oprah, or other interview-style shows such as Ellen. Whey you view a PIP (picture in picture) shot, or a side-by-side view of several people being interviewed at one time, don’t be surprised if you see the Skype logo at the bottom of some of those windows. Skype is available to anyone with an internet connection, a computer, the free program, and a connected camera. It works better if the connection speed and camera resolution are good enough to support clean and smooth voice transmission and stutter-free motion.

Since Microsoft purchased Skype, would you use it for professional services?

Why It’s Good

1. Microsoft is good at plumbing. With the exception of Xbox and Kinnect, Microsoft has been razzed for being a software company of the past rather than the future. When it had a chance to bury Apple before the Mac OS 10 released, the world moaned and writhed if they were stuck with the buggy Vista. I swear, some people are still in recovery over Vista, even as they happily galavanted about with Windows 7. [BTW, I do like Windows 7 much better, and I never knowing used Vista before switching to all Apple products. I actually see myself using both OS’s, and in the future, envision a world where more than two OS’s thrive and co-exist competitively but not antagonistically].

But what we learned is this: Microsoft is good at plumbing. They are great with taking something that “is”, and repairing it, marketing, hyping, and launching. Purchasing Skype was not only a good move for Skype, but a good one for Microsoft, as it is within its scope to improve and relaunch as an even better product for business applications with high potential for profit. Just don’t ask MS to destroy Skype and make it over from scratch.

Personally, I am hoping that Skype’s redo will inspire Apple to add even more features to Facetime and give it a run for our money. Super woot.

2. Skype needs a makeover. Sure, we like the puffy cloud with the super “S” logo. But since its rise to popularity, it really hasn’t had much of an overhaul. For people like myself who use it for business purposes, I’m interested to see how Microsoft might develop two sides of this communication platform: social/personal, and business. With video becoming the more dominant aspect of Skype above phone calls, there is also a huge piece in entertainment to develop as well. I’m hearing rumors of how the software giant wants to make Skype more compatible with Social Media. And, will we see Skype in places like healthcare and educational settings? I certainly hope so! If so, I give it the big Imei #WOOT.

3. Microsoft’s purchase of Skype means better service to you if you’re purchasing counseling and coaching services. Skype and video chat therapy is the future, and very soon, it won’t be; it will the present, the NOW. I and a few others are already using Skype and similar platforms to conduct web-enhanced therapy to keep pace with technology, innovation, and the growing complexity of the modern lifestyle. By making Skype a division of Microsoft, Skype will get the attention that it needs to usher in professional services to your home, office, or travel schedule for working people and families.

While we will never replace human interaction, video chatting assists professionals like myself to “meet” individuals and families in need of counseling and coaching with whom meeting IRL (in real life) on a regular basis is either difficult, inconvenient and/or damaging to a family or work schedule, expensive, and/or impossible because of location. People can get the service they want with little or no compromise.

A better platform that works smoothly and looks professional will only serve my clients better and build more confidence on the part of users. Right now, Skype “works”, but it doesn’t have the professional aesthetic I would prefer. I hope Microsoft hosts discussions with developers and business professionals to offer choices to those who wish to use Skype for business, but even if they don’t, I have a good feeling that even developers and insiders cannot deny the business potential for Skype services.

Is there a possibility that Skype won’t be free? Not likely. What I do see is the strong possibility that for better service (i.e. premium services for companies, for example), Skype will offer additional packages for voice, video conferencing, and multiple-screen group conferencing (like Watchitoo), and press into the one area no one has done: allow for video chatting to be recorded by the host as a legal record.

What do you think? If you’ve never met over the phone or video chatting for professional services like counseling and coaching, what do you think Skype can do for you that would persuade you to try it? And what do you think about those who already use it this way, and yet live in the same city of the professional they have hired? Can you think of some situations where the above scenario makes perfect sense?