How North Texas Kickstarted the Telemedicine Revolution

(Credit: Chris Madden)
(Credit: Chris Madden)

 

Almost 15 years ago, a pair of entrepreneurs launched a telemedicine company in North Dallas that tried to monetize treating low acuity conditions over the phone. Teladoc built a physician base and targeted large employers, offering bridge services to employees when they couldn’t get into the doctor’s office for their cold or urinary tract infection or pink eye. Last year, Teladoc became the only telemedicine company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It posted annual revenue of $77 million in 2015, a year-over-year increase of 78 percent.

The American Telemedicine Association defines telehealth as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications.” That core philosophy, using technology to reach remote patients, has existed long before Alexander Graham Bell fathered the telephone in 1876. For instance, military physicians in the Civil War used the telegraph to order medical supplies and perform consultations.

And, the pie-in-the-sky possibilities have been around for a while, too. The magazine Radio News in 1924 published a cover with the headline “THE RADIO DOCTOR—Maybe,” showing a child with his mouth opened wide and a physician peering into it from inside a bulky radio. By 1948, a doctor had successfully transmitted radiologic images from West Chester, Penn., to Philadelphia, a distance of 24 miles. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is the first reference to telemedicine in accepted medical literature. The government has used telemedicine to consult with astronauts and active military members and even Native Americans sequestered on a hard-to-reach reservation.

Since launching its own program in 2002, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has garnered more than 2 million telehealth patients. Also in the early 2000s, some large health plans began testing small pilot projects using crude telemedicine services to electronically connect their clients with physicians. And in the employer segment there was Teladoc, a nimble startup based in the northern reaches of Dallas. It was founded by a former NASA flight surgeon named Dr. Byron Brooks and serial entrepreneur Michael Gorton, who, two years before starting Teladoc, sold an internet service provider that developed the world’s first DSL connection in a deal worth $122 million.

The North Texas telemedicine revolution was full speed ahead.

This story appears in the November issue of D CEO magazine. This is just a portion of it; you can read the entire thing here

Posted in News, Physicians, Technology.
  • orthomama

    So Teledoc monetizes low acuity conditions. If the condition is low acuity enough that a doctor hanging out at a tailgate can handle it with nothing other than a phone call, surely there is a better way to fix the problem besides handing a publicly traded company the opportunity to claim their pound of flesh.