June 23, 2009

Telemedicine may be key to health reform

Several U.S. medical experts say telemedicine needs to be a core component of healthcare reform.

The white paper, published online in Telemedicine and e-Health, argues clinical medicine needs to include telemedicine -- the transferring of medical information by telephone, the Internet or other networks to facilitate consulting, chronic disease management and self-care -- to help contain cost inflation and provide other benefits that would greatly exceed the costs.

While not a panacea, telemedicine offers significant opportunities to address the issues of inequities in access to care, cost containment, and quality enhancement, lead authors Rashid Bashshur of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Gary Shannon of the University of Kentucky in Lexington said in a statement.

Telemedicine is the common element to make reform succeed, the co-editor of the journal publishing the whitepaper Dr. Ronald Merrell of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond said. Telemedicine involves stunning new technologies that go well beyond just using electronic health records, which can ensure both quality care and cost savings.