New Year, New President: What Is the Future of Telemedicine?
Amidst the uncertainty that typically follows a transition in presidents and their administrations, the telemedicine industry received rousing support this week. During his confirmation hearing, Congressman Tom Price, President Trump’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, revealed his high regard for telemedicine and his belief that telemedicine is a critical aspect of health care. In addition, his priorities of universal access to care and cost-effective care suggest that strategies that meet both criteria—such as telemedicine—will be favored. Thus, it seems certain that the future of telemedicine looks bright.
During the questioning, Price lamented the roadblocks delaying the expansion of technology in healthcare, noting that information technology is spreading quickly through other industries. He suggested incentivizing technologies such as telemedicine in order to provide patients with the highest-quality care. He also described a successful telestroke program already in place in Georgia, suggesting that other entities can emulate this model. Overall, Price welcomed telemedicine, saying “Telemedicine is absolutely vital,” especially in rural and underserved areas.
Price’s comments prioritizing universal access to cost-effective healthcare while maintaining high quality also suggest that medical facilities will rely on telemedicine more heavily. Researchers studying telemedicine in the Veterans Health Administration have already shown that in 2012, using telemedicine reduces healthcare costs by thousands of dollars per patient while improving quality and access to home health care. Hospitalizations fell by 20 percent, further decreasing the cost of care. The authors estimated that the combined system-wide savings neared $1 billion that year. Other studies have obtained similar results.
With such evidence demonstrating the financial advantages of telemedicine that can maintain or raise the level of care provided, it’s only a matter of time before medical clinics and hospitals turn to telemedicine—especially considering the pressure from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to reduce spending without sacrificing quality of care. Interestingly, Price supported the CMMI’s mandate, yet he criticized the agency for trying to dictate how providers may practice medicine; one might think that Price would encourage facilities to adopt telemedicine, but he appears to be deferring to the facilities to best determine how to meet their unique needs and day-to-day functions, including how use telemedicine as a tool for their patient populations.
In summary, Price supports the adoption of telemedicine, the cost-effectiveness of this technology, and its ability to provide healthcare that meets or exceeds the quality offered by traditional office visits. The demand for telemedicine will only increase in the years ahead; at swyMed, we’re equipped and ready for it. Where will you be?
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