Telemedicine’s boffo year? Some confirmation. (US)

Big bets were made on telemedicine (video doctor-patient consults) in 2014. This Editor closed her 18 December article with ‘telemedicine providers received a $200 million+ vote of confidence from tough-minded investors. We’ll see if 2015 results fulfill these whale-at-Monte-Carlo wagers.’ Here may be the start of a tipping point. New York State’s new law requiring insurer reimbursement for telehealth services went into effect 1 January, making NY the 22nd state to require payers to pay up for virtual visits. Permitted providers are physicians, dentists (!), physician assistants, psychologists and social workers. This provider list is considerably broader than Medicare’s new rules applying telehealth for patients with two or more chronic conditions, which is tied to physicians’ offices and contracted third parties. Also cheering the industry are that Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee are holding hearings on potential legislation, with Missouri at the legislative bill stage. ATA late last year dished out report cards on ‘telemedicine parity‘, ranking the aforementioned Iowa, Connecticut and Rhode Island with F grades and A ratings to Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee and Virginia. iHealthBeat, HealthcareITNews 9 Jan, 10 Sep 14.

Venture capital has also fallen in love with telemedicine, as you can see from this rhapsody Skip Fleshman of Asset Management Ventures penned in Forbes. It’s faster and less glitchy (internet and data connections), easily facilitated (mobile access is becoming ubiquitous), the consumer demand is for convenience (even not in real time with asynchronous messaging) and it can save doctors both money and time (so they can wrestle with prior authorizations, codes and EHRs). No major surprises here other than the recognition, but this time, he believes, consumers are actually getting excited, the financial incentives have arrived and the technology is finally easy.

This quote may represent another tipping point:

 But the area where it will have the most impact may well be with older populations. Dr. Steve Ommen, Associate Dean at the Center for Connected Care at the Mayo Clinic expects older patients to be enthusiastic adopters. “The fastest-growing demographic for social media is the 60+ group. They are not technology-averse and they have the greatest mobility challenge in terms of getting to a doctor. A telemedicine solution may be exactly what they need.”

Now Mayo Clinic also has a sizable wager on app-based personal health assistant Better [TTA 23 Apr 14] which uses audio consults, texting and email. Can video be far behind? One wonders if those tech-savvy 60+ers are showing up in their Better demographics? Hmmmm…..

We would appreciate reader comments on the parallel situation in the UK, Europe, Australia–and also Asia and Latin America.

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