For example, our health care system was not only a topic of discussion in the presidential race but played a major role in many congressional and state races. There is no question that as we face the needs of an aging baby boomer generation there are numerous deficiencies that must be addressed. The prediction that nationwide we will have 130,000 fewer physicians than needed by 2020 will only make matters worse for recipients of Medicare. This problem may grow even greater if physicians, especially those in their 50s and 60s, leave medicine due to the draconian regulations found within Obamacare.
Regardless of how modern we consider our current health care system to be, it still has not truly embraced the rapid expansion of new technologies. In our era of modern innovations, we must realize that technological advancements can play an important role in streamlining the delivery of quality, cost effective, and safe health care. To rectify the under utilization of technology, policymakers must identify and change outdated laws and archaic regulations, which hinder the usage of innovations such as advanced telemedicine techniques and the new health apps for mobile devices.
The way in which Medicare providers are licensed and regulated needs to be revisited. Under current law, health care providers are required to obtain multiple state licenses and then adhere to multiple state rules in order to provide telemedicine services across state lines. Such requirements are a major roadblock to providing patients with high-quality health care across state lines. This is especially important to patients being treated in emergency situations or those whose treatment requires access to highly specialized physicians.
A simple solution to this barrier is to allow a Medicare provider who has been granted a license to physically provide care within a specific state or jurisdiction, to apply for a telemedicine license to treat their patients across state lines. This would allow providers to offer care remotely to their patients throughout the U.S.
Patients who have an existing relationship with a specific health care provider should have access to telemedicine health care services and not be denied that personalized care simply due to state boundaries. This means if a grandparent is traveling to visit grandchildren out of state and needs health care services they would have a seamless process to access their provider regardless of location.
As Congress faces the daunting task of reducing the overall federal budget, the utilization of telemedicine to its fullest potential presents us with a unique opportunity to reduce Medicare spending. According to the Kaiser Foundation, Medicare spending in 2011 accounted for 15 percent ($551 billion) of the federal budget. Total projected health care costs will amount to one-fifth of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product by 2021. That means that finding and implementing cost saving measures now that will help both the health care system as well as our economy is of the upmost importance. Better utilizing technology can and will significantly reduce Medicare cost while at the same time improving patient safety and health care outcomes.
Technology is creating a different world, not just in health care but in all aspects of our lives. Policymakers must facilitate the usage of such technology by making sure laws and regulations are not roadblocks to innovation. This is especially true for health care technology designed to deliver a different kind of health care service, one that will enable consumers to get personalized health care at anytime, from anywhere, and provide by their own physician. One only has to look to the Kaiser Model of health care delivery to see the benefit of such budding technologies.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) represents House District 43.