Yesterday, March 6, 2014, Florida Tax Watch published its 'Critical Connections to Care' study which revealed more than $1 billion is savings for Florida by expanded utilization of telemedicine technologies. Telemedicine includes the utilization of instantly exchanging electronic medical records of patients to seeing doctors through a video screen connected to the Internet. Such an instance happened for my mother when a doctor from Baltimore, Maryland visited her at a Treasure Coast hospital through a video monitor, she credits the visit to her recovery from a severe stroke. Medicare refers to the technology as "telehealth".
According to the study, using Florida data from 2012-2013, if the expansion of telemedicine was used more frequently it could reduce hospital stays and emergency room utilizations by even 1%, the state would realize a cost-savings of more than $1 billion.
Most libertarians would be in favor of such arrangements at hospitals, however feel little need for the state government to step in to facilitate or inject tax payer money into the expansion of telemedicine. Most telemedicine technologies are being self-funded by hospitals, doctors and medical groups. For the most part, providers and hospital systems are not reimbursed for telemedicine services and, therefore, bear both the costs of investment and the rewards of savings.
In the Florida legislature there are ten bills addressing telemedicine in this year's legislative session. Most of the bills are appropriating money and offering to study the efficacy of the technologies to confirm what Florida Tax Watch has already provided.
Medical technologies will need to advance with the aging demographics of Florida residents and find efficient means to treat them. The percentage of individuals over the age of 65 will increase to more than 24% of the population by the year 2030.
The report concludes:
"At minimum, policymakers should consider removing or amending any existing statutory/ regulatory language that creates disincentives or unnecessary barriers to the use of telemedicine statewide. In addition, while telemedicine details are determined, Florida should lay a solid policy-based foundation for statewide expansion of telemedicine as a critical step in a multiphase process toward greater long-term financial sustainability in health care delivery for Florida.
Florida TaxWatch recommends the adoption of policies to move telemedicine forward in Florida as a critical step toward developing a
sustainable, cost-effective healthcare delivery system that will improve access to quality care, reduce the need for costly interventions, and promote long-term cost savings for Florida’s taxpayers."