Telehealth: Next Frontier in Health Policy?

Health policy advisors and advocates are shifting their focus to the possibilities of telehealth, which would allow physicians to treat patients virtually. Health experts suggest that this emerging health frontier could be promising, especially for patients who are immobilized or who live in remote locations.

Health policy advisors and advocates are shifting their focus to the possibilities of telehealth, which would allow physicians to treat patients virtually. Health experts suggest that this emerging health frontier could be promising, especially for patients who are immobilized or who live in remote locations.

However, current health law and policy initiatives have yet to address telehealth regulations. Medical license permissions can vary by state, and some laws prohibit the administration of medicine without an in-person visit. As well, there are no guarantees for reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

“Telehealth services are rapidly becoming a very important part of healthcare delivery under the new paradigm, but we unfortunately don’t have a regulatory environment or policy environment that accommodates the new technology,” said Thomas A. Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota and current policy advisor. “It hasn’t been changed in about 15 years.”

Ed Martinez, CIO at the Miami Children’s Hospital in Florida, said that telehealth enables their physicians to provide services as far as Peru, Costa Rica, and even on cruise ships. As well, the technology can help the 650 staff avoid using higher-cost services at the hospital, services like trauma helicopters.

"We want to help the patient recover wherever he or she is" said Mr Marinez. “We're really taking this to another level really, really quick.”

However, telehealth can still be an expensive option for patients, even if made available in their area.

“There will always be technological disparities around the country, and in many parts of rural America,” Mr Daschle said. “The cost of equipment, even if it is just a smartphone, is prohibitive. These are all issues that [are] also part of the dialogue.”

Mr Daschle is a member of the Alliance for Connected Care, which is a coalition currently seeking the creation of legislation that would promote the acceptance and understanding of telehealth in health systems nationwide.

Around the Web

Daschle, Former Senators Form Alliance to Lobby for New Telehealth Rules

[The Washington Post]

Telehealth Center Gives Miami Pediatricians a Global Reach [mHealth News]

Out With the Stethoscope, In With the Smartphone: How Genomics and Digital Advances Will Reshape Practice [AJMC]