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Medicine + Technology
+ Telecommunications = Telemedicine
By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 3)

As wonderful as the advent of telemedicine is, there are still drawbacks that people need to know about, like the fact that many states will not allow out-of-state physicians to practice medicine unless they are licensed in that particular state. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have placed restrictions on the amount given in reimbursements for telemedicine procedures, and many private insurance companies will not reimburse at all for this technology, although states such as California and Kentucky have legislated that insurers must reimburse the same amount for a telemedicine procedure as they would for an actual face-to-face consultation. There are also underlying fears of malpractice suits for physicians engaged in telemedicine because there is a lack of hands-on interaction with patients. However, several studies show that most people who have experienced long-distance healthcare via telemedicine have been quite satisfied with the care they received. There are also the technological problems which can hamper the progress of telemedicine, like the fact that regular telephone lines tend to be inadequate in handling many of the telemedical applications. Also, many rural areas still donít have the cable wiring or other kinds of high bandwidth telecommunications needed to access the equipment required for more sophisticated medical uses. One other obstacle stands in the way of progress, and thatís the issue of funding. During 2005, the Technology Opportunity Program (TOP) will not receive funds for telemedicine/telehealth, and the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth(OAT) will not be able to fund any new programs either. The good news is that some private corporations and telecommunications companies are trying to fill the financial void created by the lack of funding.

All in all, the advantages of telemedicine definitely outweigh its detractors, with it soon being just another way to see a healthcare professional. The future of telemedicine will not only be advantageous for those in rural communities, but will also offer people who are homebound within metropolitan areas with a way to access specialty care. Eventually, everyone could have a personal diagnosis system through their home computers, and it will monitor our health status on a daily basis, as well as have the ability to automatically notify a medical professional when we become ill. Telemedicine, telehealth, and e-health will continue to combine the best of medicine, technology, and telecommunications, which will help make our lives healthier and safer.

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