While debate continues to stir around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill designed to increase the number of Americans with health insurance, a larger issue regarding access to healthcare still remains.
For many rural areas in America, access to healthcare is less about finances and more about logistics. Although a primary care physician could be readily available in a town, there may be a dearth of specialists, such as oncologists, cardiologists or orthopedists.
Many specialists choose to practice in larger, more populated locations for a variety of reasons, such as finances or lifestyle. This means that when a patient that lives in a more remote, rural area is in need of specialized care due to cancer, heart conditions or other ailments, they find themselves in need of extensive travel to receive the requisite treatment.
Telemedicine solutions, implementations of advanced Unified Communications (UC) technologies such as video teleconferencing (VTC) in a healthcare setting, are gaining traction as a way to help combat this issue.
By utilizing telemedicine solutions, rural patients can have face-to-face interaction with specialists that are located anywhere in the world. This means that rural patients can see a specialist quickly without the need of extensive and pricey travel. This is especially important for individuals suffering from chronic conditions that require frequent check-ups and care.
In a recent post, we discussed a report by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions that showed doctors were slow to adopt new IT solutions in the care of their patients. With telemedicine capable of increasing access of care to all Americans, steps have to be taken to drive telemedicine adoption and bring doctors and specialists to every citizen that needs their assistance. But how?
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently proposed a new policy that could provide a roadmap to increase telemedicine adoption should it be implemented across the healthcare community. According to an article in InformationWeek, the VA is looking to eliminate copayments for veterans that utilize telemedicine for doctor’s visits.
The policy is designed to drive more veterans to utilize the VA’s extensive video telemedicine services. And it could have the same effect for the rest of the healthcare community.
Essentially, if copayments were eliminated for all patients that chose to utilize telemedicine solutions, the subsequent decrease in healthcare costs could drastically increase patient demand for telemedicine. This increased demand and the ability to provide less expensive care to patients could lead to the medical community more rapidly embracing telemedicine.
This would increase Americans’ access to care in two ways; by making care cheaper and doctors available anywhere in the country via video.