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Is Telemedicine Worth the Risk?

Posted Jun 18 2012 4:43pm

It came as a surprise when Brad Cochennet, CEO of Pagosa Springs Medical Center in Colorado, suffered from a stroke while attending a medical conference in Vail.

After being checked in at a medical center in the small Colorado town, Cochennet’s condition was not looking good. The doctors at the center did what they could, but felt obligated to bring in extra help in the form of telemedicine.

They linked Cochennet to the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood by video.

“This telemedicine technology allows a stroke specialist to almost instantly evaluate these patients regardless of where they’re located,” said Chris Fanale, the doctor who diagnosed Cochennet on the other end of the camera.

Because of the time sensitive nature of strokes, this technology was likely to have saved Cochennet’s life.

Cochennet’s story is similar to that of many others. Whether it’s a stroke, heart attack, high risk pregnancy, or almost any other medical complication, telemedicine has undoubtedly benefited the health of many since its inception in 2006.

Telemedicine is especially helpful for those who are suffering from a serious disease or condition while in a rural area. Because certain areas may not have a large enough medical center with the necessary specialists, these patients have no way  to receive the urgent care they need aside from telemedicine.

Cisco HealthPresence telemedicine Technology Image courtesy of Cisco Pics

 

Challenges

Because telemedicine is still a relatively new venture in healthcare, it comes with a heavy list of challenges.

The first of these obstacles is the medical licensing of telemedicine practitioners. Each state varies in its requirements for telemedicine practitioners, but physicians are generally required to be properly medically licensed in the state in which they are making their medical diagnosis.

This can bring about complications, especially in reference to finding the right telemedicine insurance coverage

Because telemedicine usually covers a wide geographic region, many medical malpractice insurance companies prefer not to offer coverage for telemedicine.

However, there are certain states that require coverage of telemedicine services. These states include California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and most recently, Virginia. Finding coverage in other states is possible, but may take more digging to come by.

Another potential pitfall of telemedicine is privacy. Laws such as HIPPA guarantee confidentiality to patients, but the technological barrier of video conferencing makes it more difficult to secure that confidentiality.

To protect each patient’s privacy, extra security operations are vital. Though the risks are serious, they are also avoidable. If you or your medical center is considering implementing the use of telemedicine, it is important to take the necessary precautions in protecting against these risks.

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