AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Do We Risk Getting Lost, Getting There from Here?

For the healthcare industry, this is the year for consumers to leverage new communication technology and the benefits it promised to lower cost and increased access to quality medical care.  Greg Donahue of Benefitspro said, “Telemedicine is becoming a hugely popular health care product, and a great way to connect doctors and medical facilities with patients. Although many people are still not familiar with its application or availability, the medical community is acutely aware of the cost savings and efficacy of providing direct access between the healer and the sick.” And in a recent Harris survey, more than half of American healthcare consumers indicated that they want to use telemedicine to connect with a physician is an indication that providers are in sync with their patients on the subject of telehealth and its impact on developing a new healthcare delivery model.

With a dozen or so state legislature’s and medical boards currently eying legislation and regulations that could, if adopted, remove the barriers to unfettered progress in the expansion of telemedicine nationwide, the discussion now centers, not on the factual merits of telemedicine, but rather on the question; how do we get there, all together, from here? As one watches the process that a few states have been going through in recent weeks, even the most cynical and experienced observers have to be amazed at the variety of results all the individual States efforts have produced. One thing is truly obvious; determining how we all get to the same destination is taking us all over the map.

While one universal theme consistently centers on the premise that practicing telemedicine shall use the same standard of care as if the healthcare services were provided in person, commonality ends there. Some states require face to face encounters between doctor and patient to exist prior to a virtual treatment, some require a previously established doctor patient relationship via in-person or through telecommunication, some require face to face relationships with exceptions for emergency or specialized care and others ban out-right telemedical care without a previous face to face doctor patient relationship. In a few instances, state law makers have gone as far as determining and mandating the specific illnesses that can or cannot be treated via virtual care.

Addressing the rising high cost of healthcare, universal accessibility and the looming threat of a doctor shortage should be a goal shared by all entities with the responsibility to impact and initiate effective solutions to our healthcare crisis. Technology can and will play a significant role in meeting those shared objectives, but only if all stakeholders gravitate towards setting policy that permits some individuality and flexibility but promotes continuity across all existing boundaries such that it does not interfere with the efficient application of that technology.

The journey to removing the barriers to progress is not concluded and the elongated process may, in the end, produce a better set of solutions for all. Collective intentions focused on the creation of a new and better healthcare delivery model for providers and their patients will help is all get there, together, from wherever we are.


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