The Future of Healthcare is Now: My Teladoc Story


Poison Ivy as an Agent of Change

Recently I came down with the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever experienced, perhaps even seen. And I’ve had many encounters. As a fifth grader I once caught it while a neighbor burned the noxious weed in his backyard. Plus camping with the Boy Scouts tends to put you in harms’ way. Yet despite my rich history with the plant, I never saw a doctor. Time and liberal application of calamine lotion seemed to always do the trick.

This rash was different. A dog leash imperceptibly coated by the plant’s toxin, and then tightly wrapped around my wrist to control our new puppy, ground urushiol into my skin over a 30-minute walk. There are probably better ways to guarantee a violent response. None immediately come to mind.

So when the inevitable came and my hand started to swell, then blister, concerned friends and family began offering recommendations. I needed to stop marveling at how poisonous poison ivy really is and get some drugs. Specifically steroids.

The wisdom of the crowd thus dispensed, my task turned to obtaining a prescription. Urgent care clinics are great for this, but my go-to generally runs $100 a visit. Plus I would need to get in the car. All in I was looking at 45 minutes of wasted time, probably more.

Enter Teladoc.

I have known about Teladoc for some time. My hobby interest in the consumer health space has recently morphed into something more, and I continue to admire the economic elegance of technology-enabled remote staffing models (at Carlyle I once led the diligence on a remote staffing business). Further, I am aware many enterprises are rolling out the service as a way to provide accessible care to their employees. Not surprisingly, telemedicine is growing by leaps and bounds, though not without some resistance from the establishment (see recent Texas Medical Review Board decision against remote medicine here)

That said, as a would-be customer looking to participate in the future of medicine, the website was not optimized for my experience. After 90 seconds I resorted to decidedly old school tactics and called their 800 number. A very pleasant customer service rep gave me the website address of People’s Health Express where I could create an account and access Teledoc. The signup process was fairly straightforward, though for someone with a pressing need the “up to two weeks to process submission” message was a little discouraging. Nevertheless, another very pleasant “health advocate” at People’s Health Express encouraged me to call Teledoc, explain the situation, and likely expedite my new customer on-boarding process.

And that is indeed what happened. Soup to nuts I was speaking with a Teledoc doctor within 45 minutes, and was downing drugs 30 minutes after that. It is worth noting my doctor-patient conversation was 12 minutes long, 50% longer than the 8 minutes the NY Times found for the average doctor patient visit (see 2013 NY Times article here; editorial — observing healthcare economics from afar, I do not anticipate the in-patient visit to lengthen anytime soon).

Of course, not lost on me is my own little time arbitrage, trading wasted commute time for higher quality specialist time. Remarkable. I halfway expect an Amazon Prime-like convenience premium will surface. In the meantime I’ll enjoy this mis-priced life hack all the more.

I gave First Derm a go earlier this year, using a family member as a test case (my post here). While I would have used First Derm again, I was itching (get it?) for an excuse to call Teladoc. At any rate, there is plenty of room as our health industry moves to a new generation of business scalability.

Teledoc — Bravo Zulu. We’ll speak again soon.

Thanks for reading. Comments and suggestions for other topics welcome.

Below are a few of my reviews of bestsellers in the health space:

· Dr. Eric Topol’s “The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Handshere.

· Steven Brill’s “America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare Systemhere.

· Athenahealth Co-Founder and CEO, Jonathan Bush, “Where Does It Hurt: An Entreprenuer’s Guide to Fixing Health Care” here.

· Dr. Marty Makary’s “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Healthcarehere.

I’ve also written about nutrition, money, technology, behavior science and other (mostly) related topics. On LinkedIn and Medium.

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