Telemedicine, a hazy term for most Californians, will soon enter the American lexicon. Overlooked by some as a viable solution to America's health care woes, telemedicine grants the ability for health care providers to deliver patient care virtually. This concept is critical to the Central Valley and other rural areas across the nation.
More than 60 million Americans lack access to primary care services because of due to doctor shortages at hospitals, local practices and community health centers. Many of these patients live and work in the Valley.
Often, patients have to travel extraordinarily long distances in order to see their primary care physician. Most of the patients we serve at Clinica Sierra Vista are low income and simply cannot afford to take significant time away from their jobs and families. Many are seniors on a limited, fixed income, and for whom traveling long distances is especially onerous.
The promise of telemedicine alleviates these problems by connecting patients and providers at the touch of a button, while significantly reducing costs and improving health care outcomes. With the emergence of a reliable and fast national broadband network and rapid advances in health information technology, now is the time to embrace telemedicine.
Fortunately, our representative in Washington, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, understands this crying need and in a bipartisan manner worked with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.,to introduce the TELEhealth for MEDicare (TELE-MED) Act of 2013. In the often gridlocked environment in Washington, it's encouraging to see our representative work across the aisle on legislation that will give patients greater access to care while leveraging the latest technologies.
Under current law, when it comes to practicing telehealth, physicians' hands are tied. Health care providers are required to have multiple state medical licenses and adhere to multiple state rules to provide virtual care across state lines. This outdated system of state medical licensure laws is preventing the widespread use of telemedicine and preventing patient access to quality health care.
The laws in place were designed when our system relied on local doctors treating local communities — when house calls were the norm. Now, with advances in technology, local communities can access quality care regardless of geographic location through a simple Internet connection. Telemedicine, in a way, promises the return of the house call, but virtually. Your doctor may not physically show up at your door anymore, but he or she will on your tablet or personal computer.
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc