Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Good Samaritan Clinic in central Honduras. The clinic supports the primary care needs of 90,000 people within the municipality. Access to specialists is few and far between so Good Samaritan recently implemented telemedicine technology (computer, camera, imaging, and internet) to connect with specialists in the US. Access to these specialists is made available at no cost through the “Global Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT).”
Telemedicine is often defined as “the use of information and communications technology to deliver healthcare, particularly in settings where access to medical services is insufficient.” Better overall patient care and improved outcomes are cornerstones of telemedicine. As a result, many hospitals and health systems are deploying telemedicine as a way for rural patients to have access to healthcare services that they would not be able to obtain otherwise. Continue reading
Technology has permeated into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, the realm of medicine being no exception. We are seeing robotics used in surgery, doctors sending X-ray images overseas for second opinions, pharmaceutical delivery through nanotechnology, and computers suggesting diagnosis codes. Noticing a trend? All of these breakthroughs are happening on the provider-side of medicine. The use of integrated technology when it comes to patient interaction with the health care system is still limited. If technology has been embraced by individuals for so many other functions, why have we not better integrated it into the patient-side of health care delivery?
There have been attempts within the past decade to expand telemedicine practice and access. The Federal Government has experimented with demonstration programs such as IDEATel, the efforts of VA Telehealth, and increasing the number of payable telemedicine HCPCS codes. Through these efforts telemedicine has greatly expanded in the Medicare program. In roughly a quarter of states, private payers are also mandated to pay for telehealth services, though not necessarily at the same rate as an equivalent in-office visit. Continue reading