John Glaser Discusses the Road Ahead for Telemedicine

A pioneer in the Health IT world discusses how different segments of healthcare will use telemedicine after the pandemic, and why navigators are a good idea across the board--not just for telemedicine.

It’s one thing to receive awards. John Glaser’s place in the world of health information technology is so elevated that an award in the field is named for him. In 2016, the University of Texas Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics created the John P. Glaser Health Informatics Society to acknowledge innovators in the field, and named the award after Glaser visited to give an inaugural lecture.

Today, Glaser is executive in residence at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health after having served as CEO of Siemens, in executive roles at Cerner Corporation and Partners HealthCare (now Mass General Brigham) and as a former senior advisor to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Glaser is the founding chair of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). He is also past president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the former chair of the Global Agenda Council on Digital Health, World Economic Forum.

As the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic approaches, Chief Healthcare Executive™ spoke with Glaser about the explosion of telemedicine and what its role will be in healthcare delivery once most patients are vaccinated. Which visits will return to the medical suite, and which ones will stay remote? Will the technology players who invested in secure telemedicine technology before the pandemic dominate, squeezing out Zoom? And how will the health system deal with the equity issues that have bubbled to the surface as never before?

Glaser sees a diverse technology landscape post-pandemic, one driven by the decisions made by a combination of payers, providers, and patients Employers will certainly have a say in telemedicine’s future, but clinical needs will drive much of the decision-making, too.

“I suspect that no one category of telehealth provider will dominate the market, but the larger ones will gain share,” Glaser said. Zoom will not disappear, but it may not dominate.

What about this new player in the process, the digital navigator? Glaser sees a need for more navigators, period. He describes the plight of his 80-year-old aunt trying to sign up online for a COVID-19 shot. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” he said. “You’ve got to be a nuclear physicist to solve this kind of stuff. So, it's not just telehealth.”