There is a new wave of medicine that has been sweeping across the healthcare world. Telemedicine (also known as “remote healthcare”) is the new modern wave of healthcare. Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from a single site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. The original purpose of telemedicine was to extend healthcare’s reach to rural areas to allow patients from these areas to be provided access to healthcare benefits. The technology that has become available after forty years of development now extends to services using two-way video calling, smart phones, and other wireless tools to provide services to the rural population in the United States. Since telemedicine creation the original purpose has expanded to include a variety of resources to both rural and urban patients in addition to the medical community. First, telemedicine provides primary care for those individuals in rural areas that may otherwise not have access to healthcare. Second there is the ability for doctor’s to monitor those patients who live remotely and need to have blood pressure or glucose levels checked on a regular basis. Third, the telemedicine field allows consumers to obtain specialized medical information, have access to discussion groups on health diagnoses, and provides peer support groups in times of need. Finally, telehealth is giving the medical field a makeover in how it shares information because doctors are now able to access more techniques and services through these devices to grow his or her technique in a particular field of study.
There are significant benefits from the expansion of telemedicine; healthcare can now be provided to a wider range of individuals, telemedicine is more cost efficient, improved the quality that as a nation we provide, and lastly there is more patient’s want to use telemedicine because it reduces the stress and time a person has to dedicate to ensuring his or her body is in good health.
As a result of the increase in patients and doctors alike wanting to use telemedicine, Congress would like to restructure how Medicare pays for telehealth. The representatives in support of this idea have proposed the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015. The act consists of three phases that are to be implemented over a four year period expanding the coverage of telemedicine not only to the members of the rural community but also to urban areas. Phase 1 consists of expanding the rural health centers and adding centers to metropolitan areas with a population less than a 50,000; this phase also includes the expansion of specialists such as diabetes educators and speech therapists. Phase 2 encompasses expanding telehealth sites to include metropolitan areas with populations of 50,000 to 100,000 people. The third and final phase of Congress’ plan is to then extend the telemedicine services to all geographic locations regardless of population size.
Bipartisan members of Congress that support the expansion of telecommunication have tried to introduce legislation that reimburses those companies that support telehealth endeavors. Unfortunately, in both 2013 and 2014 the bills did not leave the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on health despite the support the bill received from the Telecommunications Industry Association and American Telemedicine Association. The representatives are now hoping that the bill will get the chance to leave the Committee and that members of the healthcare community will sponsor this bill in order to have healthcare be available to every individual that needs it. This bill is legislation that would allow medicine to be provided to a larger demographic and ultimately benefit society by having healthcare be provided a little closer to home.