Should health reform include support for telemedicine

While most elements in his "personal health" strategy were fairly mainstream -- pay for performance, medical homes, comparative effectiveness -- the idea of creating a new profession that would conduct remote visits seemed fairly new.

Lobbyists for Intel, Cisco, and other companies involved in remote medicine are pushing the Senate Finance Committee to add language supporting virtual medicine in the reform bill they are marking up.

In his recent Politico column on the subject Intel chairman Paul Otellini called for a work force of “virtual care” clinicians who can use technology to see patients in their homes.

While most elements in his "personal health" strategy were fairly mainstream -- pay for performance, medical homes, comparative effectiveness -- the idea of creating a new profession that would conduct remote visits seemed fairly new.

In May Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts offered what they called an "Independence at Home" act that would fund a three-year pilot, paid for by Medicare, of medical home systems using telemedicine technology.

But why settle for a pilot when reform legislation could make it standard practice with a little push from the right lobbies?

Intel has been working on telemedicine systems to aid Alzheimer's patients for six years, using both remote sensors and Internet links to clinicians who could follow-up on unusual readings about patient movement.

But with Intel and GE having put $50 million/year into medical technology for the next five years, why not use Washington to get a faster pay-off of that investment?

Maybe the health reform bill that finally comes out of committee could have a little Intel Inside sticker on it?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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