Telemedicine is just as vital to healthcare reform as insurance coverage

We've known about the power of telemedicine for some time, but it's good to see the news making it into the general press. It's equally satisfying to see someone talking about telemedicine in the context of healthcare reform, because anyone who's read my recent columns at FierceHealthIT or FierceEMR knows how frustrated I am with the debate focusing almost exclusively on insurance coverage, as opposed to real improvements in the quality of care. But that's exactly what Dr. David Steinhaus, medical director of Medtronic Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management, did in a Washington Post op-ed last week, encouragingly headlined, "Telemedicine Is Here."

Steinhaus notes how telemedicine has "moved closer to the mainstream" in the last few years as technology has advanced to allow patient monitoring on iPhones, and more physicians have embraced the Internet. He says that telemedicine has been proven to save money on ER and physician office visits for patients with congestive heart failure, and that it clears valuable office slots for those truly in need of a physical exam.

"And more points of access make the right-minded goal of universal coverage--which means more care that needs to be delivered--more realistic, with telemedicine-enabled virtual clinics a great complement to the traditional office model," Steinhaus writes. "With or without government assistance, telemedicine is no longer 'a year away,' but, rather, a key platform for a healthcare marketplace desperately in need of solutions now."

I hope that's something that people across the political spectrum can agree on. Now if only they would understand that health reform is about so much more than just insurance coverage. - Neil