Two major developments this week point out the rapidly evolving market in telemedicine both between medical centers and out to consumers.
For the first time, the American Heart and Stroke Association issued new guidelines for early stroke treatment endorsing the use of telemedicine. The guidelines support the development of regional networks of stroke centers, acute stroke-ready hospitals and community hospitals. The guidelines are published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. This is an important and timely development and another sign that leading disease and patient groups are taking up the call for more widespread use of telemedicine. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) calls for Medicare reimbursement of telestroke services.
Also for the first time a major U.S. insurer is paying for online visits with a physician. Wellpoint, a major private insurer in the U.S. is starting to pay physicians for video visits with patients in or outside their practices. The company operates through a number of subsidiaries throughout the United States and covers over 60 million individuals. The program starts out in California and Ohio early this year and will expand to other states later. Covered patients can go to a web site to view doctors’ biographies and credentials and pay co-fees and submit claims based on their plans. The site is located at www.livehealthonline.com.