A number of large technology and other companies have discovered great commercial promise in the broadly defined telemedicine business, which includes ehealth and wireless health. One new example of this is Cisco’s announcement of a joint venture with Molina Healthcare, which primarily serves Medicaid populations, to bring primary and specialty care to underserved areas. The venture, called the California Telemedicine Pilot Project, also involves the University of California at Davis and two community health centers. It will use Cisco’s technology, called HealthPresence, to link physicians and other care providers with patients in areas which have a shortage of medical resources. (Calif. Telemedicine Story) (Molina Release)
Telemedicine’s roots lie in using communication technology to assist rural residents in accessing care. Inner city patients often also have limited medical resources in their communities. The newest forms of the technology allow a number of diagnostics to be performed remotely, through use of video cameras, electronic stethoscopes and other equipment. The remote physician can consult with local care providers and may even be able to perform or assist with the rendering of some treatments. While the equipment has a cost, as with most technology that cost has come down in recent years. There can be significant transportation and other cost savings for both patients and providers.
Reimbursement is often an uncertain area in telemedicine, but when a health plan or provider is receiving risk-based payments, telemedicine offers a viable method to keep patients in good health by accessing medical resources in a timely manner, potentially lowering overall costs. Government reimbursement, licensing and other policies are often barriers to efficient and widespread implementation of telemedicine, and those policies should be reviewed and changed where appropriate to facilitate the use of technologies which have shown good promise in improving health care delivery.