Issue Brief

No. 853

Telehealth: Into the Mainstream?
March 10, 2014

Author

Lisa Sprague, MBA

Summary

Teleheath, and its subset telemedicine, extend across a range of technologies allowing patients to seek diagnosis, treatment, and other services from clinicians by electronic means. Telephone, videoconferencing, iPads, and apps are all employed. In its most established form, hospitals and medical centers use telehealth to reach patients in underserved rural areas. Proponents of telehealth suggest it can relieve medical workforce shortages; save patients time, money, and travel; reduce unnecessary hospital visits; improve the management of chronic conditions; and improve continuing medical education. But telehealth also faces ongoing challenges. States require physicians to be licensed in each state where they treat patients, even if from a distance. Most clinicians have not been trained in telehealth. Security concerns linger. Who should have access to telehealth and how it should be reimbursed are questions without fixed answers. This issue brief looks at telehealth’s promise and its challenges and considers opportunities for policymakers to help in charting its future course.

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