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Telehealth needs a stimulus like Amazon received – report


Richard Handford

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Telehealth should be nurtured by financial incentives that encourage physicians to treat patients remotely rather than in-person, according to the US Health Crisis blog.

The blog contrasts the state of telehealth with that of e-commerce giant Amazon which has benefited from having a built-in tax advantage over traditional retail stores. Purchasers have in general avoided paying sales tax on their goods. Although not an intentional policy, this had the effect of enabling Amazon to establish itself.

But “the opposite” is happening in telehealth because the existing regulatory framework is based on in-person consultations where both patient and physician must be in the same jurisdiction, according to the blog. Those rules should be changed, it argues. It predicts that regulation will change as “pressures build to contain costs and allow new delivery models”.

Once attitudes change, then telehealth could be boosted by subsidy. Payers, such as health insurance firms, could charge patients “a lot less or nothing” for online visits than in-person visits. At present the prices are comparable.

Its second recommendation is that payers could offer physicians a premium if they use telehealth for their patients, another financial inducement to spread remote monitoring.

The Health Crisis blog is written by Karoli Kuns and Francine Hardaway who describe themselves as having “some expertise in both health policy and social media”.

Part of the function of the blog is to “write about new ideas that could solve the problem [of financing the new healthcare sector] long term”.

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