Friday, August 15, 2008

Dream of telemedicine often deferred by financial, legal and government policy obstacles

Telemedicine holds great potential for rural health care, and even for economic development, but "there are still major obstacles that have prevented adoption of this technology," Kathryn Mackenzie writes for Health Leaders Media. "Lack of reimbursement, the high cost of purchasing and installing the equipment, and confusion surrounding the legality of providing patient care across state lines are among the most commonly cited reasons."

Dr. Karen Rheuban, president-elect of the American Telemedicine Association, said recently in testimony to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development that the technology needs more taxpayer investment. Also, "Medicare reimbursement policies and uncoordinated agency definitions of rurality" have slowed adoption of telemedicine, she said. However, "The government doesn't seem to be in any rush" to authorize additional forms of telemedicing for reimbursement, Mackenzie writes.

She concludes, "The reports predicting that the practice of telemedicine will save the healthcare industry billions of dollars while vastly improving the quality of patient care may eventually prove to be prophetic. Before that happens, however, most experts agree there is going to have to be broader financial support from payers in both the private and public sectors." (Read more)

Telemedicine has often been cited as a key to reducing damage from strokes in rural patients, but "It's not just stroke patients who are benefiting from telemedicine," Jonathan Gitlin writes for Ars Technica. "Overstretched state and local health authorities are making use of the technology to spread their resources further while avoiding having doctors spending long amounts of time on the road. It's not just for institutions; as we reported recently, Intel is about to enter the market with a home telemedicine device, the Health Guide. If I have any concern over the growing use of telemedicine, it is over matters peripheral to the actual doctor/patient interaction. Instead, the worries are infrastructural: does rural America have the necessary bandwidth to support robodocs? If not, wouldn't it be in the public good to make sure they do?" (Read more)

No comments: