Our inflated healthcare costs are one of the biggest flaws of our current system. Wherever one looks, barriers to competition, innovation, and diversification exist. Telemedicine, via its easy and low-cost operation, can help solve these problems. Sadly, too many barriers exist to this easy solution.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to the act of communicating with your doctor via the internet, usually using platforms such as Zoom. By making initial diagnoses and preventative care easier to access, it enables individuals to take greater control of their own health. It also saves time and money since patients can use it from the comfort of their home.
How Can Telemedicine Help?
Even better, this advancement can help reduce the spread of disease, whether COVID or the flu. In the long run, this puts fewer nurses and doctors at risk of illness and means more workdays spent doing their job while decreasing the overall incidence of disease. More telemedicine visits means fewer flu visits.
When you consider the topography of our great state, everything above is compounded . As beautiful as the mountains and hollers are, they make driving to a clinic or hospital expensive and time-consuming. To get more specific, every mile driven by a patient increases the risk of a car accident. There is simply no good argument against telemedicine.
It is a wonder then why so many places make it tougher to access this revolution in health care. Unfortunately, West Virginia is one of those states that puts barriers in between its citizens and cheaper health care.
One of those problems is the restriction of Medicaid reimbursements for telemedicine services to specific locations. What good does the miracle of instant communication do if one must travel to a specific location to use it? Especially for the oldest and poorest in our state, remote health care should be encouraged at every angle.
Think of it like this: under any circumstance over the past year, anything virtual was the safest and smartest option. Restricting our people’s abilities to react to an ever-changing world only makes us all poorer and sicker.
Imagine if the same rules apply to restaurants or yoga studios! Everyone would think they were crazy if they required permission for curbside delivery or virtual yoga classes. Every reason that we should make curbside delivery as easy as dine-in applies to expanding telemedicine access.
As is usually the case, someone is making a killing off of this government misstep. When people are forced to access telemedicine services through specific locations, those specific locations make a lot of money. By mandating some use in-person locations to do virtual health care, the state of West Virginia is shoveling cash from the patient to the provider.
To fix this, every Mountaineer should demand that action access to this revolutionary type of health care be expanded. Every dollar wasted on driving to another place to use telemedicine is a dollar that isn’t spent on economic growth.
Bradley Foster is the Community Engagement Associate for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia.