Telemedicine can improve health care for the poor

A recent op-ed in The Hill by two African American legislators highlighted the need for expanded telemedicine into low-income communities. The op-ed, by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and State Senator Sharon Weston-Broome (D-La.), detailed the appalling disparities in current-day health care coverage.

Citing a CDC report, the writers noted that "38 percent of African American women with coronary heart disease die before the age 75, compared to only 19.4 percent of Caucasian women.," and for men, "close to 62 percent [die] before the age of 75 - a number that exceeds Caucasian men's rate, which currently stands at 41.5 percent."

The major reason is substandard health care in African American communities - urban and rural. But one way to close the gap, they said, was the application of Internet-based medicine.

"With the wide spread expansion of broadband technology, telemedicine is becoming an incredibly effective solution that is providing a new alternative to improve our current health care landscape. These innovations not only result in the substantial reduction of health care disparities, but also in a reduction of healthcare costs across the country."

They point out that 12 states had already required private insurance to pay for telemedicine service, and that Vermont and Maryland joined the list this year. The rest, they say, should follow those examples.

Johnson is ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Weston-Broome is a member of the Louisiana State Senate and is a communications consultant.

Why telemedicine must become a healthcare priority in America (The Hill, Jul. 19, 2012)