NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Telehealth Opportunity or Telehealth "Parity"?

August 30, 2016

Senior Fellow John R. Graham writes at NCPA's Health Blog:

(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)

Telehealth provides a great opportunity to reduce costs and improve quality in U.S. health care. It uses information technology to eliminate distance within the system. A subset of telehealth is telemedicine, which allows physicians to consult patients over the phone, by text, or video.

Take a couple of obvious examples: Telepsychiatry, whereby a patient undergoing talk therapy has a session with his psychiatrist over the phone instead of having to go to the doctor's office; or e-prescribing, whereby a patient can describe symptoms over the phone or send a photo (of, for example, a rash) and the doctor can prescribe immediately (if appropriate).

Most people tend to categorize these as "no-brainers." If we paid for our own care directly, these and many other examples would have long since taken off. However, because payment for medical care is dominated by health insurers and government, these innovations have been stifled. Third-party payers impose obstacles because they fear paying fraudulent claims. Nevertheless, telemedicine is growing. There is one pure-play telemedicine provider listed on a U.S. stock exchange: Teladoc, Inc. (NYSE: TDOC).

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