The US Government Accountability Office estimates that changes to Medicare Advantage plans to promote more telehealth and telemedicine use will save enrollees more than $500 million,
Telemedicine and by extension teledentistry will irrevocably change future healthcare for the better.
The so called healthcare crisis is not a crisis of care it is a crisis of affordability. That is why the debate does not revolve around diagnosis and treatment the debate revolves around insurance, accessibility and cost containment. Telemedicine has the potential to increase accessibility and lower costs. However at this time there are several barriers to change.
The primary barrier is the entrenched interests who benefit from the established model. This includes physicians, hospitals and third party payers. They block changes using licenseure and payment, or more accurately non-payment.
I had a frustrating personal experience with this. For some time we had been using telemedicine for sleep patients. The patients received a physical exam in the dental office. This included things like weight, BMI, neck measurement , BP, Epworth and such. All of this was transferred to the sleep doctor who then interviewed the patient via telemedicine, in the dental office. If it was indicated the patient then took a home sleep test, the diagnosis was completed remotely and a sleep device was fabricated as needed. This worked great and saved the patient a second and third trip to the sleep doctor. Everything was done in the dental office. Except when it wasn’t.
Medicare would not pay for a telemedicine consult. As a result any patient over 65 had to see the sleep doctor live. This increased costs, inconvenienced the patient and delayed treatment. Many times the patient simply did not get any treatment as the hassle factor was simply too high.
The GAO study above is a good start.