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Telehealth and Telemedicine Can Improve Access to Quality Health Care

Dr. Robert Keenan uses Telehealth, consulting with patients via video camera and computer at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. Photo by Melissa Lyttle

Georgia currently faces challenges related to access to quality health care, having several counties without any physicians at all. One way to improve upon these deficits is through telehealth and telemedicine.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines telehealth as: the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Examples of these technologies range from smart phones to tablets, even a traditional landline can bridge the gap to quality health care.

On Feb. 19, 2019 Senator Renee Unterman (R-45) introduced two measures that would increase access to telehealth in Georgia. SB 115, would provide for telemedicine licenses for physicians licensed in other states to engage in the practice of medicine with patients in Georgia through telemedicine. SB 118 would update definitions and policy within Georgia code to align with modern technology and terminology. Further, it would prohibit insurance companies from denying a service solely because the service was provided via telehealth. It also requires insurance to reimburse providers on the same basis and at least at the rate that the insurer is responsible for coverage for the provision of the same service through in-person consultation or contact.

This legislation offers many opportunities to improve access to health care in Georgia, and we thank Sen. Unterman for her leadership on this important effort.

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