In 1923, people were amazed by the advent of the motor car but it was still regarded by many as something of a novelty. It wasn’t until 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation funding the construction of the US Interstate Highway System, that the automobile could realize its full potential and transform the way we move around. The promise of newfound technology always opens up a world of possibility and opportunity, but sometimes it takes a while for the support infrastructure to catch up and for people’s attitudes and behaviors to change.
Well, as my colleague Michael Levy is often heard proclaiming, it’s the equivalent of 1923 in the 21st century and what once seemed the stuff of dreams – including artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and the metaverse – is now coming to fruition. And yet, while digital health technology continues to advance exponentially (and medical knowledge doubles every 73 days), it is important to take stock and learn from the lessons of the past. That is, in order to move forward, sometimes you have to look back and hindsight is usually 20:20.
Throughout my eclectic career, the future has usually been clear. Not in a Dumbledore, master wizard sort-of-way, but based on a deep understanding of market trends and human behavior. Many of our predictions at Bluedoor, especially around the advancement of digital health, have eventually been proven “spot on” as we Brits like to say. They just needed the environment or the infrastructure or people’s attitudes to be ready to receive them. For those clients that listened (MindCare, Hippo Technologies, Medable, Castor, Infermedica to name just a few), the journey to success was effectively accelerated. So let’s go back and explore the past and five predictions that could have changed the world earlier. Because sometimes the past is the most prescient path to the future.
Today, telehealth or telemedicine is fairly ubiquitous, due largely to the pandemic, but it’s nothing new. The Jetsons famously predicted telehealth for viruses more than 60 years ago, and early iterations in the 1970s centered around the British army providing remote care to troops in combat. Solutions have certainly come a long way in the last decade, but despite rapid advancement and broad acceptance, telehealth as a strategy embedded throughout the continuum of care was largely ignored by major health systems.
In 1999, I was living in Japan when I was approached by Tomen, one of the nation’s largest general trading companies. They had built a global telecoms network and were looking to promote the use of telemedicine around the world. I immediately saw this platform as the future of healthcare delivery, but they struggled to gain traction with western healthcare systems and soon shelved the project. 15 years later in 2014, I met with some folks from a little known telehealth company based in Florida called Teledoc who were slowly building up a head of steam (although at that time, 99 percent of their clinical consultations were by phone rather than videoconference). Today, Teledoc generates more than $2.5B in annual revenue and conducted 18.5M virtual visits in 2022. The pandemic forced health systems to adapt and adopt a virtual care delivery model. I should have listened to my gut and invested when I had the chance!