The California Telemedicine and eHealth Center (CTEC) recently published a brief outlining ways to expand telehealth/telemedicine. The publication “Optimizing Telehealth in California: An Agenda for Today and Tomorrow” addresses the promise and potential for the use of telemedicine in California’s healthcare system.
The brief is organized around two broad recommendations and 37 action steps needed to reach full optimization of the technology in the state. Specifically, the brief recommends that telemedicine should be developed and implemented in every situation where the technology is used to care for patients with the result that costs are reduced. Also telemedicine should be a covered and reimbursable method for delivering services across the entire spectrum of healthcare.
Government plays an important role and according to the brief, there needs to be a telehealth government task force that will make sure that telehealth efforts are coordinated. Also state agencies need to identify possible applications and develop feasibility studies to expand telehealth to achieve reductions in cost and to provide efficient service.
The brief suggests that to achieve support from large employers, the California tax code needs to allow telemedicine sites to be treated in the same manner as other employer provided medical benefits. It is important to encourage health insurers to provide discounts for some of the employers that support preventive medicine via telehealth services and also if they provide health education and home monitoring.
The brief emphasizes that consumer demand is a critical link in acceptance and expansion of any new product and telemedicine is no exception. Consumers will pick telemedicine options if they are informed of the benefits of the program. Researchers at Purdue University, along with many others consider consumer demand as perhaps the single most critical factor in the expansion and deployment of telehealth.
According to Christine Martin, Executive Director of CTEC, telemedicine is an extraordinary tool that has been shown to improve healthcare access, quality, and efficiency in new and cost effective ways. The brief prepared in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders is set to influence California’s use, funding, and support of telemedicine.
For a copy of the brief, go to www.cteconline.org.