In letters to the Senate Finance Committee and the AHRQ, organizations like the AHA and HIMSS are asking that current guidelines be amended to make telehealth easier to implement.
In a 2014 national survey, only 15% of responding family physicians (FPs) reported using telehealth in the previous year, even though most agreed that telehealth could improve access to and continuity of care for their patients. More than one-half of FPs identified lack of training and reimbursement as key barriers to adoption of telehealth, with more than 40% noting the cost of technology and liability issues as additional barriers.
iHealthBeat, Monday, January 25, 2016
Prisons increasingly are embracing telemedicine tools to manage their inmates’ health care needs, Stateline/Government Technology reports.
According to Stateline/Government Technology, telemedicine provides a number of benefits to prison health care systems, particularly those in rural areas that have to transport potentially dangerous prisoners and their security escorts to hospitals for care. The ability to provide care remotely also attracts more doctors, including specialists, to participate in prison health care because it eliminates travel time and concerns of personal safety.
Although it can be difficult to estimate the cost savings from prison telemedicine programs, Owen Murray — vice president of correctional managed care for the University of Texas Medical Branch, which handles health care for about 80% of Texas’ prison inmates — attributed the state’s low per-capita spending on prisoner health care to the technology. A Pew Charitable Trusts report estimated that Texas spent about $3,805 per prisoner on health care in 2011, compared with the national average of $6,047.
Several states across the U.S. have adopted or expanded their prison telemedicine programs in recent years, in part because of the improvements in electronic health records and other health IT tools.
- Colorado Department of Corrections uses telemedicine in nine of its prisons to make care more accessible to inmates;
- Louisiana Department of Corrections uses telemedicine at nine state facilities and 14 local jails to conduct about 3,500 telemedicine appointments annually;
- In Texas, University of Texas Medical Branch conducts about 127,000 telemedicine appointments annually at the state’s 83 correctional facilities; and
- Wyoming uses telemedicine at five state prisons, conducting about 440 telemedicine appointments annually.
Bradley Brockman, director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, called telemedicine “a godsend and a real gift because prisoners are getting care from providers or specialists that they would have far less chance of getting otherwise.”
However, David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, raised concerns about the technology being used inappropriately or excessively to save on health care costs. He cited a lawsuit in Arizona where full medical histories were not provided to doctors practicing telemedicine in prison. Fathi said, “Telemedicine does offer some positives, but it is never going to be as good as having an on-site physician who can perform hands-on diagnosis and treatment” (Ollove, Stateline/Government Technology, 1/21).
The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth and Intel-GE Care Innovations has had such success providing the Diabetes Health Telehealth Network that it is being expanded to serve those with other chronic diseases and those underserved across the Southeast.
The American Telemedicine Association awarded 22 states an “A” for regulations governing telemedicine providers-patient encounters, Vermeulen reported. However, three states — Texas, Alabama and Arkansas — got an F.
expect the most striking medical advances next year in the field of cancer treatment.