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States can help make health care moreaccessible and affordable by utilizing modern day technology. By merging technology and health care,state policymakers can create new opportunities for medical professionals andpatients to interact in more efficient ways. The use of technology in healthcare -- often called telehealth -- utilizes high-speed Internet applications toremotely monitor patients, facilitate collaboration between medicalprofessionals, exchange medical data and images, and instantaneously provideefficient emergency service to remote areas. The potential benefits of telehealthinclude saving lives, increasingaccess to and quality of medical services, providing better treatment for chronicillness, reducingmedical costs and reducing patient travel.

Although telehealth has been around for years,its promises have not been truly realized. The obstacles to achieving the full potential of telehealthinclude the lack of widespread high-speed Internet technology, the way in whichAmericans pay for health care, and how physicians are regulated by thegovernment. Key policies that address these barriers to the adoption oftelehealth include:

  • Build-out of high-speed Internet technology: Telehealth provides many benefits, such as transmitting detailed images, remotely monitoring patients at home, and utilizing advanced teleconferencing technology for collaboration, trainings, and patient visits. In order to capitalize on the benefits of telehealth, however, states need to support the deployment of sophisticated and affordable high-speed Internet services, especially to unserved and underserved regions, such as low-income and rural areas. Last year, the FCC, recognizing the benefits of telehealth programs, allocated $417 million for the construction of 69 statewide and regional high-speed Internet telehealth networks. State legislatures need to invest in high-speed Internet deployment and take advantage of federal grants so that their residents can start to use advanced technological applications such as telehealth.
  • Reforming medical licensing rules: Licensing health care professionals is aimed at protecting patients from poor medical care, but also acts as a barrier to telehealth programs. State legislatures have oversight over medical boards and dictate medical practice policies therefore are in a position to help ensure licensure regulations and legislative policy promote a safe and responsible way for health care to be practiced across state lines.
  • Changing medical reimbursement policies: The absence of uniform reimbursement policies is another serious obstacle to the integration of telehealth into health care practices. For telehealth technology to flourish, states should require Medicaid to take a lead in reimbursing for telehealth services as a means of encouraging private insurers to develop standards for reimbursing providers for telehealth services.


Source: the.honoluluadvertiser.com

Resources:
Progressive States Network - Telehealth:Merging of Technology and Medicine Leads to Improved Healthcare
Bio-Medicine - LatestStudies Show Consumer-Directed Solutions Like Consult A Doctor Lower CostsWhile Providing Greater Access to Affordable, Quality Health Care
Center for Information Technology Leadership -TheValue of Provider To Provider Telehealth Technologies
Communication Workers of America - TelemedicineHelps Save Time and Lives in Smaller Hospitals
Internet Innovation Alliance, AdvancingHealthcare Through High-speed Internet-Opening Up a World of Possibilities