Increase in Nation’s Use of Telemedicine Technologies ‘Slow and Uneven,’ Report Finds
Despite improvements in computer and communication technologies, the increase in the use of telemedicine in the United States has been "relatively slow and uneven," according a report published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. The report attributed the trend to insurers' reluctance to reimburse for telemedicine services and to physicians' reluctance to use "new and often inconvenient" telemedicine technologies. Use of the nation's telemedicine networks, excluding teleradiology, is low; telemedicine referring sites in the United States averaged fewer than 40 consultations per site in 1998, according to the report. However, the report said that new telemedicine applications -- such as remote monitoring for intensive care units and disease management programs -- are "appealing" because they tend to be inexpensive, convenient for patients and providers and capable of improving outcomes while reducing costs. Based on these promising applications, as well as slow changes in reimbursement policies and physicians' attitudes, the report predicted that "telemedicine will continue to evolve slowly but steadily as research clarifies its benefits, limitations and costs" (Field/Grigsby, JAMA, 7/24). For more iHealth & Technology stories, visit iHealthBeat.org, a new Web publication sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.