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Remote health care advocates make early pitch in Florida

Posted: November 30, 2014 at 10:46 pm

TALLAHASSEE Some of Florida's most influential health care groups are urging state lawmakers to expand the use of telehealth Web and videoconferencing technology that allows doctors and other health care providers to treat patients as a way to save money and deal with a growing shortage of doctors.

Several powerful institutions, including Baptist Health South Florida, the Florida Hospital Association and Associated Industries of Florida, held a conference in Tallahassee last week to build support for telehealth in advance of the 2015 legislative session.

Baptist Health South Florida vice president Phillis Oeters said telehealth programs had saved Baptist $18 million and reduced the mortality rate by 40 percent.

"It's saving lives, saving money," Oeters said. "All hospitals need to have the flexibility to be innovative and have these kinds of programs. They are transforming the health care industry."

Business leaders are also on board.

"The Florida Chamber believes telemedicine can help lower overall health care costs while providing greater access to care in all corners of our state," Mark Wilson, the group's president, wrote in an email Wednesday. "And with 6 million more residents on the horizon, millions of new visitors each year, aging physicians and a lack of health care professionals, our state needs a better approach to health care one that is focused on wellness and healthier outcomes with innovations that will make us stronger, healthier and more competitive."

In a report released in November, Florida TaxWatch found that Florida could save more than $1 billion annually by enabling health care providers to use digital communications technology.

"Florida competes with the best states in the nation for business, but we are failing in the health care arena," Florida TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro said. "In the fight to bring quality, affordable health care to its residents, Florida is losing to other large competitor states like Texas and California, which directly impacts quality of life, business and the state economy."

Telehealth is not new to Florida. But because insurance companies are not required to reimburse health care providers for telehealth services, they are not widely offered.

Florida lawmakers discussed telehealth legislation during the 2014 legislative session. While they agreed on the need to expand the use of communications technology in health care, they failed to find consensus on several key points.

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Remote health care advocates make early pitch in Florida

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