Government support for healthcare (telehealth or telemedicine) technologies continues to gain momentum across the globe. The latest examples in Scotland and California emphasize improved medical care and reduced costs from adoption of technologies such as telepresence, home monitoring and Internet services.
A recent Guardian article highlights a report from the Scottish auditor which urges NHS to consider telehealth when developing or redesigning services. The report sets out a series of questions for NHS boards to ask around improved access, increased capacity, cost avoidance and health benefits. They include: Are any patients unable to access the current service because of geography? Do clinical staff have to do more than a four hour round trip to deliver the current service? Could using telehealth potentially reduce hospital admissions? Hopefully NHS takes this recommendation seriously and starts to make some serious headway on the telehealth front.
In California, I was thrilled to see that Governor Brown recently signed a new law that relaxes criteria for health care providers who want to offer telehealth services. Besides the obvious medical benefits, a report from the Center for Connected Health Policy estimates that the measure could reduce the state’s medical spending by more than $1.3 billion per year through home monitoring systems. In this era of excessive budget deficits and exploding health care costs, it’s refreshing to hear of technology innovations that can actually offer improved service while cutting significant costs.
I can only imagine what the savings might be if potential telepresence adoption was added to the calculations. Better care through easier access to doctors and specialists, reduced travel expenses and less crowding in clinics could make a serious dent in medical costs.
While innovative clinics and practices have been instrumental in pushing the envelope on telehealth usage, government-backed initiatives like these have the potential to increase adoption exponentially. Let’s hope we start hearing about more and more state and federal government bodies clearing the way for the future of telehealth.
What do you think? Is telehealth the new normal?