Around for the Long Haul?

“Doctors want to innovate; [p]atients want access.” Such a
simple way to look at today’s health care landscape. As Dr. Allison Suttle, the
chief medical officer at South Dakota’s Sanford Health, highlights in a recent
op-ed in The Hill, telehealth can provide the answer to both. Doctors,
Suttle notes, are able to provide access via innovative health modalities, and
patients can receive health consultations from virtually any location. However,
the current laws and regulations concerning telehealth can discourage even the
most dedicated physician from using it in his or her practice. Government
restrictions on what modalities are acceptable for reimbursement provide a particularly
big hindrance to many physicians. Some of those restrictions are reasonable;
however, some are just government lagging behind innovation, as it so often

The evidence speaks for itself. “[W]hen patients with
private coverage use telehealth services through their employers, health plans
or health systems, access to and quality of care goes up while costs go down,” Suttle
asserts. Cost reduction when using telehealth is something proponents have been
touting for a while now. And, they have been right. The cost reduction is a
realized benefit for both providers and patients. Furthermore, telehealth has
been shown help physicians and patients in rural communities. The National
Center for Health Statistics, for example, reported that “the
patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is 39.8 physicians per
100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians in urban areas.” Because of the
disparity in available physicians to meet the ever-growing patient needs,
physicians and patients are often forced to travel great distances, incurring
more costs. All that travel, for both parties, is just inefficient. However, it
may also be inefficient and less cost-effective to build new healthcare
facilities closer to patients.

Here enters telehealth. It provides a lot of answers to many difficulties in providing efficient, quality health care. This is nothing new from what telehealth advocates have been saying. It would just be nice to see a little more support nationally in the form of less restrictive policies. However, in defense of Congress and lawmakers, many of whom have (as we’ve previously reported) long been advocating for greater access to telehealth, they want to be absolutely sure the available telehealth modalities do more good for patients than harm. The goal of health care and telehealth is, of course, to benefit the patient. While telehealth has been around long enough to demonstrate its usefulness in some areas, there are still other areas where that remains to be determined. Hence why laws usually are the last thing to reflect changing times, and rightfully so. Lawmakers want to ensure new trends are here to stay, and not just here for the moment. It seems though that telehealth is going to be around for awhile, and it is probably time for Congress to give it a little boost.

Click here to read the Hill op-ed on the role of telehealth.


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Thanks !

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