The ink is barely dry on agreements allowing more telemedicine than ever before, but there are indications that some corners of the healthcare marketplace are already moving on toward The Next Big Thing: text-based medical encounters. A Denver-based startup called CirrusMD has pulled together $7 million in capital it plans to devote to expanding what’s thought to be the industry’s first “text-first” workflow. CirrusMD has cut its teeth on working with large health systems and plans that are focused on value-based care models, supporting their efforts to provide quicker access to in-network providers. Their hope is to squeeze even more time out of the process with the “text-med” model; the idea is that patients can convey their symptoms to a provider—presumably a nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant—and then move up the line to a more “conventional” telemedicine encounter where images and other helpful information can be exchanged in real time if needed. Ultimately, the patient would be directed to head to an urgent care center or the emergency room, or to schedule an appointment with a specialist or primary care physician, if the issue couldn’t be resolved remotely. Skeptics might say this is a gimmick that only adds an extra step to the process of getting timely care. Further, given that the text medium has given birth to an entirely new language of abbreviations—not all of which are universally understood—the challenges of obtaining a history, for one example, could likely prove challenging. It’s also unclear whether there are sufficient emojis to convey vomiting or purulent discharge.
Now That We’re Used to Telemedicine, How About ‘Text-Med’?