AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

This Could be the Year the Predictions are Realized

Telemedicine has been around for nearly a generation but its universal adoption remains restrained and its best promises to revolutionize the delivery of healthcare unrealized. With each approaching year a prediction that “it’s time has come” echoes throughout the industry and each year the gap to full realization closes only incrementally.

For more than one generation now sweeping improvements in treatment and changes in how healthcare providers deliver their product and service has been a benchmark example of an industry experiencing continuous improvement. Even concerns over how telemedicine will handle the lack of a direct in-person physical examination, the management and maintenance of patients medical records and the assurance of follow-up patient care have been widely debated and in large part addressed by medical professionals with the implementation of standards, protocols and guidelines for the practice of telemedical care.

Private insurers are recognizing the potential benefits of telehealth to controlling rising costs and improving access to improved medical care. Federally funded Medicare and other state payers are deliberately moving to approve payments for telehealth services for many of their constituents and the Veterans Administration (VA) has shown leadership in advancing new communication technologies to improve access to specialized care for their veterans.

But the regulatory groups responsible for multi-state licensing continue to adversely influence the rate of expansion of telemedical care nationwide. Recent offers from state medical licensing boards to streamline the licensing process has left many to doubt the effectiveness these changes will have in removing the barrier to meaningful progress. Advocates of the traditional licensing procedures are quick to point out the importance of these procedures to patient safety and assurance of care quality. Opponents see their limited effort in changing the process as an attempt to preserve a regulatory function that is out of date with the reality of today’s global economic environment.

In an era where geographic lines and narrowly defined market distribution models have all but disappeared from nearly every other industry, the healthcare industry continues to struggle with outdated regulatory processes which impede the full implementation of the benefits of telemedicine.

If the shared goal of both proponents and opponents of change is to improve the quality and efficiency of medical care for all consumers, then why does a more dynamic solution to removing the licensing barrier appear to be so difficult?

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