Telemedicine: Making healthcare more accessible

Published 7:11 pm Saturday, February 28, 2015

By Senator Dan Sparks

District 27

Telemedicine has been used by doctors’ offices and hospitals in Minnesota at varying levels for several years. The technology allows rural patients the ability to get the attention and care they need from experts, without traveling long distances. I had the opportunity to meet with Mayo Clinic’s CEO, chief administrative officer and chief nursing officer in Austin to talk about how Mayo is using advancing technology to better treat its patients in our local area.

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The Rochester-based health care provider started a new pilot program called the Mayo Clinic Health Connection, which is a private, walk-in kiosk that gives you a convenient new way to receive basic health care. Patients can check in at a touchscreen outside the kiosk, inside an attendant will guide you through a vitals check. After the blood pressure, height and weight check, you’ll connect with a provider on screen and use various medical devices as instructed. I was able to tour one of these kiosks and hear about how Mayo hopes to expand the program into rural areas of the state.

My Senate colleagues rolled out bipartisan legislation this week to expand health insurance coverage to include telemedicine visits, coverage that is currently inconsistent. Depending on which health provider you talk to, health insurance companies cover telemedicine visits differently, but one thing providers agree on is how important telehealth is to the entire state. Various health providers spoke at the Minnesota Telemedicine Act rollout this week and talked about how proper reimbursement rates will make a huge difference in quality care. Several hospital officials stated that if the bill passes, they will be able to expand their telehealth services.

Passing this bill will mean more people will have the opportunity to access life-saving care, close to home. Research shows that when health care access is far away, fewer people seek out preventative care. Telemedicine is the link between giving people the care they need, and in a setting that is convenient.  The Minnesota Telemedicine Act will provide quality health care access through out Greater Minnesota.

If you have questions regarding these or other matters, please contact my office at 651-296-9248.