Monday, April 28, 2014

Telehealth provider complains many consumers lack bandwidth to meet newly adopted telehealth guidelines

Model policy designed to guide state medical boards in regulating the delivery of medical services remotely via telemedicine (also referred to as telehealth) has drawn protest over its requirement that doctors and patients cannot rely exclusively on lower bandwidth applications such as texting, email and voice communications and instead must utilize higher bandwidth secure Internet videoconferencing.

“Not everybody has a video device or has access to the bandwidth” to make the standard useful, said Henry DePhillips, chief medical officer of Teladoc in remarks reported by Modern Healthcare. Even for consumers in an urban setting, “over 95 percent of the time, will chose the telephone, even if they have the device and the bandwidth,"DePhillips added.  

The Federation of State Medical Boards Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine defines telemedicine as follows:
“Telemedicine” means the practice of medicine using electronic communications, information technology or other means between a licensee in one location, and a patient in another location with or without an intervening healthcare provider. Generally, telemedicine is not an audio-only, telephone conversation, e-mail/instant messaging conversation, or fax. It typically involves the application of secure videoconferencing or store and forward technology to provide or support healthcare delivery by replicating the interaction of a traditional, encounter in person between a provider and a patient. 
The bandwidth adequacy concern raised by DePhillips has merit insofar as a sizable segment of American homes are located in areas that lack telecommunications infrastructure able to reliably support videoconferencing, while the pricing models of mobile wireless providers are designed to discourage the use of high bandwidth applications.

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