Telehealth saved one baby's life—but can it replace face-to-face care?

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Telemedicine has proven effective in treating diabetes and headaches. For one new mother in rural Sonora, California, remote care proved invaluable when Kimberly Griffiths’ week-old daughter turned blue and had difficulty breathing.

The closest pediatric specialist was 100 miles away in Sacramento, according to the story from California Healthline. But two-way video allowed a consultation with a University of California, Davis neonatologist. High-resolution images and vital signs showed a congenital heart condition.

“Without telemedicine, our daughter would have died that night,” Griffiths said.

California is one of 48 states that provide reimbursement for some telemedicine services in Medicaid’s fee-for-service model.

“Nobody should be denied the health care they need because of where they live,” she said.

But regulators are experiencing some difficulty integrating telemedicine and other methods of remote care into insurance markets. Few states allow telehealth to count toward network adequacy. Regulators must approve adequacy—the number of healthcare providers that can ensure care provided in a timely manner in a given region—before the insurers can offer such plans.

Some patients remain skeptical of remote visits, fearing telemedicine and videoconferencing are more about saving insurers and providers money and less about improving care.

“Your physician should know your history,” said Michael Barnett, a 69-year-old resident of San Francisco. “In telemedicine, you’re probably getting someone who doesn’t know much about you. They may have access to it electronically, but it’s likely to be very skimpy.”

The complete story can be found here.