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As Teleheath Continues to Grow, Policies to Accommodate New Technology Come Under Spotlight

- April 26, 2011 - 1 Comment

California has long been a leader in leveraging and promoting telehealth as evidenced by the Telemedicine Development Act, passed by the California Legislature in 1996.  However, some are arguing that the law needs to be updated to ensure California is able to embrace the latest technological innovations as soon as they are available.  Specifically, the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) and California Telemedicine and eHealth Center (CTEC) have both recently come out with reports citing the need for wide scale coverage and offering guidance on how the policy needs to be updated. Additionally, legislation is currently being reviewed by the California Assembly to allow for coverage of telemedicine visits by Medi-Cal patients for any service otherwise covered by Medi-Cal.

One such technology that is directly impacted by these policies is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), which allows physicians and patients to connect regardless of location.  RPM is on the rise and becoming ever more critical in the care of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, liver diseases and asthma, according to a new study from market research firm Frost & Sullivan. This comes as no surprise as the benefits of RPM are vast:  closing the gap between the haves and have-nots, offering dental care and oral health care to those who have never had it, and providing improved care for patients in rural areas. And although the RPM market continues to grow, the report cites the absence of wide scale reimbursement, the lack of standardization and global regulatory policies governing technology usage as the key barriers to adoption.

Having seen the benefits of telehealth firsthand, we’re hopeful this legislation will continue to move forward and break down these barriers.  Telehealth not only allows for universal healthcare coverage in remote areas, but also saves taxpayers money. However, as we have seen in the past when new technology is introduced, not only are people resistant to incorporate it immediately, but the technology often moves and develops faster than policy and law makers. With such a powerful tool at our fingertips, it is critical that our legislators move quickly to update laws that will create a more welcoming environment for widespread use of telehealth. And hopefully, other states will follow California’s lead and update their own policies to encourage the use of telehealth.

Also, ATA 2011, the 16th Annual International Meeting & Exposition for the American Telemedicine Association, is right around the corner on May 1-3 in Tampa, Florida. Visit the event site to register, and we hope to see you there!

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