Telemedicine was touted in the FCC National Broadband Plan as a national priority with tremendous cost savings attached. The President recently singled out telemedicine in his State of the Union address, which is carefully vetted to ensure that only the most important initiatives are emphasized. Telemedicine allows a patient to be connected with their physician or other healthcare provider, without having to be physically present. Telemedicine also facilitates healthcare by making a patient's medical history available to all members of the healthcare team, promoting a dedicated team approach to practicing medicine.
From President Obama:
"It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor." - President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 25, 2011.
The entire spectrum of healthcare providers have jumped on-board and embraced the concept of electronic medical records, e-mail communications with patients, and real-time medical test results. In the world of telemedicine, a patient in New York can be evaluated by a doctor in California, and can get a second opinion from a specialist in London - with everyone having instantaneous access to the patient's medical history and test results. In fact, the entire process of patient care, from patient intake and care, all the way through filling prescriptions and billing an insurance company can be entirely automated, without the necessity of printed forms.
In rural areas of the country, telemedicine is about a doctor providing remote health care, or a pharmacy electronically filling a prescription. Access to the health care system is leveled, with patients in rural and urban areas served equally well. For a hospital or healthcare provider in an urban setting, it is more of a matter of economics. The cost savings when a fully automated electronic medical records system is implemented is significant. Combined with the savings in human resource expenses, there is no wonder why hospitals and doctors alike are aggressively pursuing this option.
Telemedicine also alleviates the problem with the shortage of primary care physicians. Many physicians who normally would not be practicing medicine are available remotely, providing primary care health services to patients who desperately need their services.
From the National Broadband Plan:
"Broadband and health IT will transform health care, simultaneously enabling better outcomes and lowering costs. Electronic Health Records and Remote Monitoring technology could alone create over $700 B in net savings over 15-25 years. Yet in nearly every metric used to measure the adoption of health information technology (health IT)."