Telemedicine Gains Strength in the Broadband Era

Carl Weinschenk

It is common for folks to say that modern telecommunications and IT tools are particularly good for particular sectors. That's true, of course. But it also is good to remember that those sectors are not monolithic. Each has its own sectors, however.

Telemedicine is one such sector. Last week, MedCity News offered an interesting piece on six subsectors within the overall telemedicine vertical that stand to benefit greatly from the growth of broadband and mobility. They are radiology, dermatology, behavioral health, correctional health care, ocular health and pediatric sub-specialties.

Perhaps the most intriguing is correctional health care. It simply makes sense to take care of bad guys (or suspected bad guys) without moving them. This approach also is used to streamline arraignments, conferences and other formerly difficult-to-arrange events in the legal/judicial vertical. The bottom line is that broadband can be a game-saver for strapped criminal justice budgets:

Privately managed prisons looking to cut costs are looking to telemedicine. The cost of transporting prisons can be high and few, if any, prisons maintain a specialty staff. Wexford Health Sources in Pittsburgh is one company that's been active in the space since 1998.

The story referenced a move by Pennsylvania to increase telemedicine. Details are provided at CMIO, which reports that the state this week increased Medicaid reimbursements for telemedicine consultations. The story cites a press release in which Governor Tom Corbett promises that "additional specialty physicians will be able to perform consultations and diagnose patients, recommend and monitor treatment and even order tests or prescribe medication."

Telemedicine is not new - but it has been reinvigorated. At the beginning of the month, WinterGreen Research released a report that said telemedicine will grow from $736 million last year to $2.5 billion in 2018. FierceIT said the report found that telemedicine and telehealth will do a more efficient job of tracking patients with chronic conditions and will reduce hospital readmissions. Mobile devices will lead to significant changes in delivery and put the revenue focus on service delivery.

Telemedicine always has been a bit of a no-brainer. This Orange County Register piece starts with a nice vignette illustrating the discipline in action. It then describes a project by St. Joseph Health, which owns four non-profit hospitals and the St. Jude clinic. By August, the piece says, the $588,000 project will serve seven sites in southern California.

Telemedicine easily predates modern telecommunications. Great strides have been made over the past decades and the future promises many more. Technical advances will benefit this vertical - and its subspecialities - on an ongoing basis.

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