TELEMEDICINE: COLUMBIA/HCA TO CONDUCT TEST
Doctors at Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. "are starting toThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
treat patients from afar with video cameras to save money by
exchanging office visits for online appointments," AP/HOUSTON
CHRONICLE reports. Columbia/HCA's test of telemedicine,
announced yesterday, "takes doctors one step further away from
patients in the name of holding down medical costs," according to
AP/CHRONICLE. Ann Schmidt, head of Columbia/HCA's home health
care operation, said that with video medicine, "we can improve
home care and customer service while reducing costs."
JUST THE BEGINNING?: AP/CHRONICLE reports that
Columbia/HCA's "entry into telemedicine adds momentum to a trend
just beginning to take hold among managed care companies." While
the treatment "brings medical care to rural areas that lack
access to nearby hospitals ... health care watchdogs fear the
practice may replace routine doctor visits nationwide." Jamie
Court, director of the Santa Monica, CA-based advocacy group,
Consumers for Quality Care, said, "This is a front line battle in
medical ethics. The issue here is that profiteering companies
are trying to apply telemedicine in areas where it simply doesn't
belong as a way to cut costs and produce a better rate of return
for Wall Street investors." Columbia/HCA spokesperson Jeff
Prescott, however, "said the company is moving slowly to test the
system to ensure that the video hookups improve rather than
replace existing patient care."
PARTNER IN CRIME?: AP/CHRONICLE reports that Kaiser
Permanente of California, the nation's largest nonprofit HMO,
"has been testing a similar system for patient visits with
psychiatrists and other specialists." According to Peter Juhn,
Kaiser Permanente's vice president for health strategies
development, the insurer began using telemedicine "about a year
and a half ago, largely because of the lower cost." He said,
"The way we're approaching this is, this is not for everyone.
It's providing another set of options. We're into telemedicine
because we believe this enables us to provide state-of-the-art
health care anytime, anyplace, therefore overcoming the barriers
of distance, time and place" (Hendren, 5/2).