Research touts telemedicine's effectiveness treating chronically ill patients

Evidence continues to mount that telemedicine is effective in reducing hospitalization rates and emergency department visits while also improving health outcomes for chronic disease patients, according to a review of research led by former American Telemedicine Association (ATA) President Rashid Bashshur (pictured), the executive director of eHealth at the University of Michigan Health System.

The review, which will be published in Telemedicine and e-Health, examines literature published on telemedicine management of three chronic conditions: congestive heart failure, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. An unrestricted grant from the Alliance for Connected Care, launched in February by former U.S. Senators Tom Daschle, Trent Lott and John Breaux, provided partial support for the review. 

"Advanced applications in information and communication technology in healthcare were developed and tested with an eye to improve healthcare access and quality while attempting to contain cost inflation," Bashshur and colleagues said in an executive summary of the forthcoming paper, sent to FierceHealthIT. "This technology has opened new vistas in connectivity, clinical and shared decision-making, system integration, patient empowerment, as well as organizational and operational efficiency."

The paper also was released this week at an event hosted by the aforementioned Alliance for Connected Care.

"The research ... confirms what I have long suspected--that the use of connected care can result in high-quality, lower cost services for Medicare beneficiaries," Daschle said in a statement. "It's time to remove the regulatory and statutory barriers still impeding provider reimbursement for the use of connected care and ensure that all Americans have access to these services."

In an editorial published last May in Telemedicine and e-Health, Bashshur said that telemedicine must move to the forefront of medical efforts in the U.S. for domestic care efficiency and quality improvements to be considered anything more than marginal.

"We are at the threshold of a new environment in which telemedicine, broadly defined, must be an essential part of mainstream healthcare if patients are to receive appropriate care, at the appropriate site, by the appropriate provider while avoiding duplication and waste," Bashshur said in the editorial.

In a draft guideline published earlier this month, the ATA said that while telemedicine can serve as a viable and convenient alternative to face-to-face primary and urgent care, it's not meant to totally replace such care.

To learn more:
- here's the Alliance for Connected Care statement

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