The California state Legislative Analyst's Office recommends Golden State lawmakers consider integrating telemedicine into California's health care delivery system. The suggestion comes in the last sentence of a report the LAO issued last week on the impact of the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on state health care programs.
The report notes that as more people become medically insured when most of its provisions take effect in 2014, California's health care system may lack capacity to serve a greater number of patients. Telemedicine --videoconferencing with medical professionals and uploading patient data -- offers the potential to make it easier for doctors to consult with patients and possibly serve more of them.
Before telemedicine can be adopted as a lower cost and more convenient method for patients to access medical professionals, the telecommunications infrastructure must be upgraded and expanded to provide reliable, Internet protocol-based service delivered via fiber optic cable connections to residences. Much of that job will fall to community-based entities such as municipal and consumer-owned telecom cooperatives.