State telemedicine efforts encounter hurdles

Legislative efforts to enhance the use of telemedicine in both Florida and Tennessee have hit some bumps in the road, according to various reports.

Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill funding a trio of telemedicine projects, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal, including $1 million for Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, $500,000 for St. Vincent's HealthCare in Jacksonville and $275,000 for Baptist Health South Florida in Miami. While state House and Senate members have debated the benefits and pitfalls of telemedicine, they have yet to come to a consensus, the Journal reported.

Baptist Health Chief Operating Officer Wayne Brackin, whose hospital would have used the money to develop an eICU pilot program at a rural hospital in the state, said he and his colleagues were "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

"Critical care physicians cannot possibly be in every ICU in every hospital, and the eICU would have allowed a rural hospital to keep patients in their community and treat severely ill patients in their own community hospitals rather than transferring them to faraway medical centers," Brackin said in a statement. "It's unfortunate to lose such an extremely worthwhile program of $275,000 in a $77 billion budget."

Meanwhile in Tennessee, state legislators debating the merits of telemedicine are worried that it could potentially exacerbate its ongoing problems with overprescribing controlled substances, according to The Tennesseean

Lawmakers also are concerned about barriers to patients-physician relationships, according to the news outlet.

Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Boston-based Partners Center for Connected Health, said that states need to adopt telehealth policies--such as a model policy adopted in April by the Federation of State Medical Boards--as the practice grows more and more prevalent, in a recent post to the Health Affairs blog.

"This model policy allows for regulatory certainty while encouraging future innovation by creating clear definitions and guidelines on how and when telehealth can be most effectively incorporated into quality patient care," Kvedar said.

To learn more:
- here's the Jacksonville Business Journal post
- read Brackin's statement
- check out Scott's veto list (.pdf)
- read the article in The Tennessean