What’s Holding Back Telehealthcare?

By Paul Bond, Emergency Nursing Today

Paul G. Bond, RN, CEN, MSN, ALNC
Paul G. Bond, RN, CEN, MSN, ALNC

Like it or not, electronic administration of healthcare is here – and it’s here to stay.

The only real question is when will telehealth or telemedicine gain widespread use? What’s holding back the explosion of Internet based health care along the lines of what has happened in the rest of the business world? We routinely hold meetings in the virtual world, we teach in the virtual world, and we most assuredly play in the virtual world. But what of healthcare?

Why hasn’t the behemoth that is supposedly our economy’s downfall gone virtual for more of what it can do?

The answer is quite simple: money. It’s not a lack of desire on the part of physicians or nurses or even administrators to adopt the technology. It’s not about data security. It’s about payment for services. That’s right. It’s the reimbursement for such adoption that seems to be holding back the floodgates (imagine that!).

Let’s look at the healthcare system in Western PA, UPMC. They utilize telehealth in 15 different hospitals and in 13 different specialties. Yet, many other hospitals in the area don’t even use HALF of that! Why? The insurance companies don’t feel telehealth has been proven as a cost saving method yet. And they base this on what? Their opinion.

Many studies have been done on the measuring the effectiveness of telemedicine and how it can indeed save money and benefit patient care.  The Veteran’s Administration already uses it for 35,000 of its patients. And now, California has moved ahead with an initiative to connect 800 facilities statewide for the purpose of saving money and sharing resources to provide health care services.

I wonder when the holders of the purse strings  will open their eyes and shell out the needed funds to make this happen nationwide? I also wonder what it will take to make that happen?