How VA Is Driving Telemedicine

Adam Mazmanian | FCW | February 13, 2014

There's a quiet revolution going on in health care that has big implications for the future of medicine.

Telemedicine, or the broader term telehealth, allows patients to receive medical examinations from primary care physicians, consult with specialists, participate in one-on-one psychotherapy or counseling, and share diagnostic information using videoconferencing and other electronic communications tools. It has mainly been used to reach those who live in rural areas, but its influence is spreading.

Although most of the technology underlying telemedicine is not particularly advanced, a confluence of circumstances is conspiring to take telemedicine out of the realm of specialized and rural care and into everyday programs. For instance, consumer devices such as the networked pedometer Fitbit are showing the public how monitoring and data-collection tools can be used to enhance health and fitness.

At a deeper level, changes in the law, pressure from insurance carriers to reduce hospitalizations, and a new emphasis on preventive care and disease management are combining to take telemedicine into the mainstream.