Care Convene Aims to Make Telemedicine as User-Friendly as Facebook

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telemedicine. In many cases, they’ve got a thriving suburban practice and access to tools and specialists within a few miles, so they don’t see a need for it.

“They’ve got everything they need, so the thought [doctors have] is, ‘Why would I want to try something new when I have everything at my disposal?’ You can’t use your hands or a stethoscope for consultations with telemedicine,” he says. “But all doctors learn the art of triage, and it forces us to innovate. It’s a challenge not to touch the patient, but we have so many good protocols and data that [telemedicine] can save a trip to urgent care.”

However, VanWingen sees other uses for Care Convene beyond urgent care visits. “Doctors are asked to screen every patient for mental illness,” he explains. “In spirit, that’s a good thing. In practicality, it can be annoying. What if the onus was on the patient? They could check in to Care Convene weekly to track their mood, and then the doctor would get a ping. I see Care Convene as a tool to make doctors’ lives better by bridging the gap between patients, geography, and care.”

As someone who spends a lot of time with doctors managing both my own and my father’s care, I can attest to a significant desire on the part of patients to have a quick, app-driven way not only to consult directly with providers, but also to get multiple providers communicating and collaborating when they share a patient. Barriers to easy mobile communication with doctors include trying to unite an extremely siloed ecosystem where clinicians are already pressed for time, and overcoming a fear of change, particularly among older physicians.

The payoff, VanWingen says, is worth doctors getting out of their comfort zone. He had an epiphany about telemedicine a few months ago when he was working out with his trainer. He was doing planks, but he was exhausted and really wanted to cheat.

“I realized that I was only going to get out of it what I put in,” he says, much like telemedicine. “Doctors are frustrated with patients, and patients are frustrated that doctors are not responsive. That needs to be repaired. Wouldn’t it be nice if technology could help?”

Despite Care Convene’s novel approach, many other telemedicine companies are trying to accomplish something similar, even in the startup’s own backyard. Competition is stiff, and there’s a lot of money at stake. According to one 2016 report, the global market for telemedicine could be worth up to $48.9 billion by 2021.

Care Convene has nine employees and four physician advisors on staff. The company is “founder funded,” Bailey says, but is currently seeking outside investment. Bailey says Care Convene is currently working with West Michigan Cardiology to help high-risk patients manage their health and conveniently access care.  It is also working with a large physician organization and urgent care clinic in Traverse City, MI, to manage high-risk patients and employer occupational health needs. In the coming months, Bailey hopes to take the platform nationwide.

For his part, VanWingen wants to see telemedicine become a more standard tool in a physician’s arsenal. It’s so far been a struggle, he says, because many telemedicine and electronic health record systems are hard to use and time-consuming.

“I’ve been a bit disenchanted,” he admits. “For telemedicine to succeed, it needs to be user-friendly, very affordable, and able to make our lives easier as doctors.”

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