Saturday, April 17, 2010

Virtual Medicine, Better, But Not Perfect

Key Words – Virtual medicine, virtual reality, virtual simulation, perfect information, telemedicine, electronic health records

An Interview with Ron J. Pion, MD. Chairman of Medical Technology Group’s Advisory Board

Virtual – Being in force or effect, not actually or expressively so, for the most part.

Dictionary definition of "Virtual"

Preface -
Virtual is not the real thing. It is simulated and occurs in the absence of a real person. For the most part, Internet-based virtual medicine and telemedicine lacks the personal element.

But, according to Ron Pion, MD, a 78 year academic, entrepreneur, consultant to Internet medical companies, medical Internet use will lift all clinical boats.

These days we’re all moving on Internet time. This full interview of this summary will appear in, an online site that has acquired 17 print publications, including Medical Economics. The Modern Medicine website signals a profound shift from print to online, and the need for new business models, not only in medical publications, but in medical practice itself.

Ronald J. Pion MD, is principal in the Pion Group, a special advisor to the Galen Capital Group, and chairman of the Medical Telecommunications Group‘s advisory board. As the founder of the Hospital Satellite Network, he provides programming for hospitals and patients, and is a leading authority on telecommunications in the health care industry. Dr. Pion oversees the Pion Group, where he serves as a health care consultant on issues related to improving clinical outcomes and patient care. Dr. Pion believes the Internet, and its telecommunications applications, will improve patient care and outcomes, virtually link physicians with each other, and virtually bond physicians more closely with patients.

“Q: The focus of this interview is how to help doctors in solo or small group practice succeed through the use of the Internet and telecommunications. How can doctors become more efficient and effective through the use of new telecommunications media?”

“A: Doctors have to begin to talk in terms of computers, smart phones, and IPods just as easily as they talk of stethoscopes, otoscopes, and proctoscopes. We must talk of telecommunication tools currently available to physicians in any specialty and to any primary care doctor, now becoming known as realtors who own medical homes. “

“As doctors, we have to realize we see patients episodically. Now we must begin to keep tabs on that patient every single day. Automated telecommunications will help us do that. When the patient understands that the doctor cares, he or she will supply that information – gladly, willingly, and constantly.”

“Q: How does the doctor get into automated telecommunications game? “

“A: The doctor does that by outsourcing a lot of his time to competent professionals just like him. These competent professionals create Google, Microsoft, software, and hardware. As Larry Weed pointed out 50 years ago, you can’t practice medicine without a computer. Today we have much more than a computer. We have knowledge and wisdom accumulated from data and information.”

“You need data to gather information, you need information to gather knowledge, and you need knowledge to gather expertise.”

“Computers help us keep up with what’s going on in the world. We must advantage ourselves by trying to capture the world’s knowledge. “

“Q: So your point is the Internet and telecommunications can lift all boats?”

“A: Yes, and all boats will be lifted. There is no doubt in my mind.”

“Q: How do these artful applications of computers help doctors in the short term as they scramble to survive and even thrive?”

“A: In the short term, it’s difficult. No doctor likes to change his routine if he’s going to lose time and money. That’s a major problem, and if he doesn’t see that day-by-day opportunities to keep renovating the kitchen and the house, he is going to hate clinically-oriented computers. Many doctors hate clinical computers now, because they costs money to use. They have heard all these nasty stories about failed promises made by computer companies over the years. They don’t understand, but the youngsters coming out of medical schools do with their PCs, blackberries, smart phones, and other wireless gadgets do.”

“Q: Is there any hope for us old dogs?”

“A: Yes, because you can teach old doctors and old patients new tricks. All you have to do is make it valuable to them. They will learn what needs to be done and will buy what it takes to do it, especially those with discretionary income. Leave the people alone who can’t afford a computer, and let’s focus on success. Let’s focus on those successful practitioners who have done what others are afraid to do.”


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Virtual reality has been used to provide medical education about healthcare responses to emergencies such as earthquakes, plane crashes and fires.

Virtual reality exhibit