A Primer on Telemedicine

If you have used the hims platform and received a prescription, you know it's not like any doctor’s appointment you’ve had before. And... well, you didn’t need an appointment. 

We think it’s important that you, our customers, know how this works and understand exactly what’s behind it so you can decide whether it makes sense for you. Before getting in the details of our process, it’s useful to explain a little bit about telemedicine and the technology we have developed to make Hims possible. 

The History of Telemedicine

At a basic level, telemedicine refers to medicine delivered "at a distance”. The earliest conception of telemedicine was in 1924 as a potential use for radio technology. The first applications in clinical practice came in the 1940s and 1950s for diagnostic purposes — primarily for interpreting cardiology and radiology tests. Over the next several decades, it would become more common in traditional physician consults. However, like most new technologies, telemedicine had its early detractors and supported its share of debates on matters ranging from efficacy to etiquette.

Today, telemedicine is most commonly employed over phone or video conference. Because both patient and physician need to engage at the same time, we call this “synchronous” telemedicine. 

Synchronous telemedicine visits use the same amount of the physician’s time as a physical, in-person visit. As a result, these visits are subject to the same pressures that plague the rest of healthcare. The unfortunate reality is that physicians are under a lot of pressure to see as many patients as possible and most visits amount to just 8-12 minutes of “face time” with your physician.

Furthermore, traditional telemedicine visits can often cost you as much as traditional office visits, and many health insurance companies will only pay for your physician visit if you go see the doctor in person (they really make you work for it!). 


Asynchronous Telemedicine - Another Option

Here’s a scenario for a typical doctor’s visit. In most cases, you and your physician engage in a conversation. You share a concern or complaint, the doctor asks a series of questions, and you decide on a course of treatment. For well-understood and easily-diagnosed health conditions, the questions a physician asks will be similar from one patient to the next. This isn’t always easy though. Sometimes you forget something important about your medical history or the name of some medication you’re taking. It can be challenging to get everything out in a 8-12 minute visit, and face it—some topics can be embarrassing or difficult to raise. 

Very simply, asynchronous telemedicine uses technology to facilitate a conversation by anticipating the questions that are clinically relevant while giving the patient the best medium to communicate relevant clinical information and context.  However, both parties engage in this conversation independently, on their own time. 

Not only is asynchronous communication more convenient, it can also enable a better clinical experience for patients. This is possible because the platform allows the interaction to be designed to maximize the experience for both the patient and doctor. 

  • By allowing the patient to move at their own pace at the time and place of their choosing, the visit can be improved in several ways: the patient can be presented with a more comprehensive set of medical questions to get a full picture of their medical condition, and they can use as much time as they need to communicate their concerns 
  • A physician is able to review the entirety of this information and capture a full picture to help provide a personalized assessment and plan.

All this results in a process that’s more effective and more efficient as well. Institutions like Stanford have begun to study asynchronous telemedicine and incorporate it into clinical practice. hims’ clinical advisor, Justin Ko, MD MBA recently published a paper on that effort here.


The hims Technology Platform

At hims, we worked with a team of leading physicians and technologists to create a world-class, asynchronous telemedicine platform to connect patients with physicians. Our technology creates a great experience for patients and presents information to physicians in a way that makes it easy for them to process the information to make better decisions for your care. 

To power our platform, hims partners exclusively with physicians who are based in the United States and licensed to practice medicine in your state. As an additional precaution, we perform extensive background checks on all physicians before they are allowed to serve hims customers to ensure their practice history is spotless.

Before prescribing medication, your physician first determines whether your condition can be diagnosed based on information we collect. However, your physician may refer you to a local doctor for a follow-up visit, if necessary. 

In most cases, the information provided is sufficient to diagnose your condition and your physician will send you a message confirming that a diagnosis was made and send an electronic prescription order to our pharmacy. The hims pharmacy is also based in the United States, and the medications are made by the same manufacturers that produce medication sold in major U.S. retail pharmacies. 

This entire process takes place within our secure technology platform, built to deliver asynchronous telemedicine to optimize your care. Our approach is safe, effective, and efficient. We are proud of what this platform means for guys, and we are committed to the highest standards in serving them.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.