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How Can California Make Most of Telehealth Law?

For the second half of the 20th century, California was a leader on several fronts of health care’s evolution. California innovations and maturations in integrated delivery, managed care, stem cell research and electronic health records often set the agenda for national trends.

Now California is poised to do it again with a 21st century innovation — telehealth.

New state legislation (AB 415) passed this fall has the potential to move two-way audio-visual technology out of the realm of wonky oddity and into the mainstream, according to some industry experts.

Timing for the California Telehealth Advancement Act may be good for a variety of reasons, including:

  • A pervasive shortage of physicians and other health care providers, especially in rural areas, makes telehealth more palatable — even appealing — to formerly skeptical providers and public;
  • Telehealth’s coming of age as major health care reforms take effect may increase the technology’s value in the long run; and
  • Telehealth has the potential to save millions of dollars in health care delivery in both public and private forums. For California — which is struggling with cutbacks in Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program — and for the private sector, which is battling rising costs in a floundering economy, new technology may help calm troubled financial waters.

But a new law alone probably will not be enough to move telehealth quickly and efficiently into the medical mainstream.

We asked experts what California policymakers and health care providers can do to make the transition proceed smoothly and effectively.

We got responses from:

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