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August 2016

Telemedicine: What Is It, Does It Work, and Why Doesn’t Medicare Pay for It?

Washington Watch

 

Remember “the Jetsons,” the 1960s futuristic cartoon, in which robotic appliances controlled the Jetsons’ home, their cars could fly, their pet dog was a robot, and life was made all better by technology?

 

These days, if you’re one of the 7,500 Mercy Hospital patients in five different states in the Midwest and the South served with telemedicine, your health care might make you feel a bit like you were one of the Jetsons.

 

Right now, patients can be sitting in a bed recovering from a major illness at their local hospital. When it’s time for the nurse’s check-in, instead of seeing an actual person, they see a camera whirl around and a monitor lights up to show a smiling face with a headset on. The medical professionals, who are hundreds of miles away in a command center in St Louis, Mo., can do heart monitoring, blood pressure, respiratory rates, temperatures – all on a 24/7 basis. This high-tech monitoring, which the St. Louis-area hospital calls “Mercy Virtual,” is especially effective for patients in rural areas.

 

Another hospital doing virtual care with cameras from remote locations is the Carolinas Health Care System, which is using telemedicine to monitor intensive care units in 10 of its hospitals. From a command center near Charlotte, N.C., a 24-7 rotating crew of nurses and doctors who specialize in critical care, monitor every room through a computer screen that allows the patient to see and converse with a nurse at any moment.

 

If this can work successfully in the intensity of an ICU, imagine the benefits that can be found with frail elderly people who can’t easily get to the hospital?

 

The Major Barrier? Medicare Acceptance Despite Evidence of Success

For now, the biggest barrier to adoption of this technology by seniors is Medicare itself. Medicare refuses to pay for it, or allow insurers to pay for it, except in very limited circumstances.

 

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The Way We Were, Isn’t The Way We Are

Aglessly Yours

 

Every now and then I feel like the same kid who attended a parochial high school back in the day. But then it happens – it’s time for me to get up either from my bed in the morning, my hammock in the afternoon, or from my La-Z-Boy at night – when my delusional thinking turns to reality and I think, what if ... what if today, at this age, I was back in school?

 

Impossible! I’d never still be able to fit into those darn small desks — too much spaghetti, meatballs and wine over the years that has turned my waistline into a girth the size of a watermelon. Okay, make that a muskmelon – I’ve been dieting now for the past 50 years. And how about those leg cramps most of us get now when we’re sitting too long? If the lecturing priest in religion class could wrap up in about 15 minutes as to why having impure thoughts and acting upon them would land us smack into hell, we might be able to sit still, huh, gang? Besides, I must be on the path to paradise now because lately God had taken away all those lustful thoughts — darn!

 

If I were in school today, I’d have to be sitting near the front of the room; no such thing as sitting in the back anymore, because how else could we see the blackboard or hear what thefather or sister was saying? Haven’t you noticed how people nowadays just don’t articulate their pronunciations anymore? They slur, mumble and drop the first consonant and vowel of almost every word — it’s really pathetic. Maybe if the teacher used a megaphone so we could hear, it would help.

 

Remember how we kept our books on a little rack under our desks?.

 

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