Telemedicine (aka telehealth) is nothing new. It dates back to at least 1967 when one of the first telemedicine clinics was founded at Massachusetts General Hospital. Doctors, patients and insurance carriers are increasingly utilizing telemedicine. It is often used to overcome distance barriers and to provide access to medical services that might not be consistently available in distant communities in rural areas. Patients often prefer telemedicine because it affords quick, readily accessible medical attention; providers like it because it limits the need for brick and mortar facilities and decreases the number of no shows and, perhaps most important, inexpensively brings medical attention to home bound patients who would otherwise require an ambulance or other expensive and life disrupting transportation to physicians. Other benefits include keeping patients with infectious diseases away from others (think MRSA) and decreasing the delays in getting medical attention to the patient.
Given that telemedicine has so many positive attributes (not the least of which is cost saving!), many have predicted it is the wave of the future. Will that wave sweep into the workers' compensation? What does our crystal ball say?