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Telehealth Conference Information
A TaxWatch Top Issue
Florida’s demographic changes and health care needs increasingly call for a viable alternative to in-person medical consultation, and such an alternative is ready and waiting in telemedicine, exchanging medical information between locations via electronic communications for the purpose of improving patient care, treatment, education, and services. Telemedicine has been successfully used across health conditions and medical specialties, from pediatrics, to geriatrics, to chronic disease maintenance, to emergency treatment.
Nationally, a majority of hospitals utilize some form of telemedicine, while federal and private efforts continue to promote and expand telemedicine use. In the state of Florida, telemedicine primarily exists in uncoordinated pockets of the state, and several well-reputed health care facilities have invested in telemedicine services on their own dollar.
The current Florida landscape does not support the statewide expansion of telemedicine, as reimbursement is uncertain or nonexistent in most instances, and the state has no requirement that either Medicaid or private payers cover telemedicine services. Medicare and Medicaid reimburse for telemedicine services equivalent to in-person services, but funding is limited to service locations and reimbursement varies for Medicaid from state to state. In Florida, most health entities bear the full burdens and benefits of offering telemedicine services.
Telemedicine can be used to increase access to quality care, and it can also be used as an innovative tool to reduce costly medical interventions such as emergency room utilization and length of hospital stay. Based on Florida data from 2012-2013, if the expansion of telemedicine could reduce these interventions by even 1%, the state would realize a cost-savings of more than $1 billion. In addition, telemedicine provides significant economic development opportunities for job creation in the telecommunications and health sectors, may extend career-life for aging health care practitioners, and provide an unprecedented opportunity to make Florida a worldwide virtual healthcare hub.
After extensive review of the literature, Florida TaxWatch recommends that policymakers remove disincentives or unnecessary barriers to the use of telemedicine statewide and lay a solid policy-based foundation for statewide expansion of telemedicine as a critical step toward long-term sustainability for the health of the state, its people, and its budget.