Telemedicine, the delivery of health care services using technology such as video conferencing, is “a cost-effective, hassle free and patient centered” approach to health care.
That’s the message State Rep. Cary Pigman and a dozen other speakers delivered Tuesday during the 2013-2014 Telemedicine Public Policy Symposium, held at the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus.
The symposium was hosted by State Rep. Mia Jones of Jacksonville and by Pigman, an emergency physician. After the conference, Jones said she and Pigman plan to co-sponsor a bill that would require Medicaid and private insurers in Florida to reimburse health care providers who treat patients using telemedicine. Currently, 21 states have such legislation.
Telemedicine “is effective and efficient,” said Anne Burdick, the associate dean for Telehealth and Clinical Outreach at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It should be reimbursed.”
“So much of what we do in health care is directed toward rescue,” Pigman said. “This would enable [physicians] to do more maintenance and preservation.”
Jeff Wacksman, practice operations director for Mobile Physician Services, which provides in-home visits to homebound patients in the Tampa Bay area, noted that 5 percent of Medicaid patients account for 54 percent of Medicaid spending.
One major reason the care of those patients is so expensive is that “they are accessing health care at its most expensive point” by showing up often in emergency rooms.
Providing new ways for such people to access health care could save a lot of money, he said. In fact, if the law were changed to allow homebound patients anywhere in the state to be treated in their homes using telemedicine approaches, the state could save billions, Wacksman said.
Toree Malasanos, a pediatric endocrinologist who is director of the Florida Initiative in Telehealth and Education at the University of Florida, said that using telemedicine techniques to treat kids with diabetes at a clinic in Daytona Beach had resulted in a 70 percent drop in emergency room visits and an 88 percent decrease in hospitalizations.