Over 40 years of research has yielded a wealth of data about the cost effectiveness and efficacy of many telemedicine applications. The House Committee on Small Business defined telemedicine as “when the provider and patient are separated by distance but able to interact through technology.”
In a statement from the committee, Chairman Chris Collins (R-NY) said the focus of the hearing was to look particularly at smaller practices to see how telemedicine was helping them survive in a market filled with larger competitors. “One of the best ways to reform healthcare and reduce costs is to allow the private sector to improve the industry through innovation and increased access”, Collins said in the statement.
The congressman noted that as the technology involved in telemedicine improves, it is important that politics not get involved to hamper that progress.
The committee’s statement cited a study showing telemedicine’s potential for growth: in 2013 around 900,000 patients utilized some manner of telemedicine. The study predicted that by 2018 the number would increase to more than 22 million patients.
Not all the reviews of telemedicine were favorable during the congressional hearing. Brenda Dintiman, MD, FAAD, at Fair Oaks Skin Care Center in Fairfax, VA, said she has seen problems affecting not only the practitioners but also the patients. “The largest barrier as noted is reimbursement for telehealth services,” she reported. According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a bill is being introduced to help regulate reimbursement for telemedicine.
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