BALTIMORE -- Year after year, it seems like American Telemedicine Association attendees, vendors and leaders bring their problems to their annual convention and trade stories about small gains in reimbursement, telemedicine implementation and acceptance in mainstream medicine.
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Not this year. The gains seem huge.
More than half of U.S. states require reimbursement in one form or another for telemedicine services, and federal accountable care organizations as well as similar commercial capitated or quality-based payment schemes are sending large health systems looking for answers to cut costs yet monitor their most costly patients from afar.
Telemedicine, once seen as an inferior substitute for in-person healthcare, suddenly seems like the miracle drug that will infuse profitability back into an ailing market. At this year's show, Intermountain Healthcare unveiled an ambitious telemedicine infrastructure that it intends to roll out across many clinical service lines and other areas such as nutrition services. Chesterfield, Missouri's Mercy, the sixth-largest Catholic health system in the U.S., announced groundbreaking on a $50 million telehealth hub.
We sat down with Gary Capistrant, American Telemedicine Association senior public policy director, to discuss what is driving the sudden interest in telemedicine implementation to the point where mainstream health systems are investing such large sums. He also speaks of the challenges this sector of healthcare still faces in making its case on Capitol Hill to become parallel with in-person visits, as well as looking to the future of healthcare as it embraces communications technology on board most patients' smartphones and tablets.