Phoebe Yang, Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband, gave this speech about the intersection between communications technology and health care at a conference sponsored by the American Telemedicine Association on Monday, Sept. 27.
Over a century ago, Alexander Graham Bell met with the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, to demonstrate a new invention: the telephone. After Bell finished his demonstration, the President turned to him and said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”
As it turned out, the answer to the President’s question was simple: doctors.
As the eminent sociologist Dr. Paul Starr notes, the first recorded telephone exchange connected 21 Connecticut doctors with the Capital Avenue Drugstore in Hartford. The first phone line in Rochester, Minnesota, connected a doctor by the name of Mayo with his local drugstore. By 1923, use of the telephone was so widespread in the medical profession that a Philadelphia doctor’s manual on medical practice remarked that it had become as necessary to the physician as the stethoscope.
Our era is perhaps an even more transformative time for medicine. As all of you know firsthand, we’ve seen tremendous innovation and investment in telemedicine over the last decade.