05 June 2013

Telemedicine Is Gaining Support – Part 1

Part 1 of 2 parts

I know that there are a lot of definitions available to apply to telemedicine. Telemedicine in one form or another has been around for about 50 plus years. Most of telemedicine pre 1990 was by use of telephone or occasionally when publicity could be had, some TV stations would lend their facilities to aid in telemedicine.

Then in 1991, the scene started to change. Computers became the medium for telemedicine. Today there are mobile devices and portable tablets being used for telemedicine. Terminology is expanding and more terms are gaining acceptance. Sometimes even I need to wonder which term(s) to use.

Almost 100 percent of telemedicine today uses telecommunications. We have the term telehealth, mHealth, eHealth, and health information technology (HIT). This is not a complete list as there is others gaining acceptance such as RPM for remote patient monitoring.

A concise and yet simplistic definition is, “Telemedicine is the ability to provide interactive healthcare utilizing modern technology and telecommunications.” I have encountered this usage from several sources and therefore do not know whom the source of the original use should be credited. This is also revealing in that telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Many specialists make use of telemedicine and think nothing of it.

Products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services. However, some state medical boards are lobbying for a different set of billing codes to differentiate and control groups using telemedicine.

Some attempts are being made throttle telemedicine and force patients into a doctor's office, or a hospital and eliminate telemedicine. I hope state legislatures will reverse this to allow telemedicine to expand in not only heavily populated areas, but also especially in largely rural areas where patients would need to travel several hours to see a doctor or have access to a hospital. Some federal programs have stepped into very remote areas to lend assistance to telemedicine.

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