The benefits of telemedicine in Washington state

By ROGER STARK  | 
POLICY NOTES
|
Dec 4, 2017

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Key Findings

  1. People living in certain geographic areas in the United States, including Washington state, lack access to primary and specialty health care.
     
  2. Telemedicine, defined as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunication technology,” is gaining popularity and offers a practical solution for the lack of health care services in rural areas.
     
  3. The nation and Washington state face a looming health care provider shortage.
     
  4. Telemedicine offers more timely access to health care at a greatly reduced cost.
     
  5. Government officials should offer guidelines and protect patient rights, but they should otherwise let people in the voluntary free market decide the most efficient use of this expanding technology.
     
  6. To improve access to health care, state officials should streamline the licensing process for out-of-state providers, and should not place barriers to patient-doctor interactions using telemedicine.

Introduction

People living in certain geographic areas in the United States lack access to primary and specialty health care. These are mostly people living in rural areas where patients have no timely access to doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals. Nearly 59 million Americans nationally and 1.2 million Washingtonians live in areas with a shortage of access to local primary care.
 
Telemedicine, defined as “the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunication technology,” is gaining popularity and offers a practical solution for lack of health care services in rural areas. Telemedicine allows patients to remain in their own town, or even their own home, and receive direct care from a distant provider. 

The terms telemedicine and telehealth are used interchangeably. Both terms refer to the use of communication technology to connect doctors and patients over distance.

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