Patients in rural California to benefit from telehealth initiatives

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Due to legislation passed recently by Governor Jerry Brown, more Californians are set to benefit from increased telehealth initiatives across the state.

The Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011 aims to extend the healthcare IT provisions first set forth in the state’s Telemedicine Act of 1996. Under the legislation, new telehealth intitiatives will be introduced in healthcare facilities and hospitals in rural California under more insurance providers. Other aims of the act include streamlining the certification process for care providers to ensure patient access to a wider range of telehealth treatment options. The bill was passed by a unanimous vote.

“California has long been a national leader in the adoption and development of telehealth, and we are pleased that [Governor Jerry] Brown and Assemblyman [Dan] Logue have acknowledged the incredible opportunity we have to revolutionize access to healthcare in our state,” said Christine Martin, executive director of the California Telemedicine and eHealth Center, as quoted by Healthcare IT News. “This new act enables healthcare providers to take better advantage of telehealth technology for preventative and specialized care that will save and enhance the lives of many Californians.”

The legislation was drafted following extensive discussions with and recommendations from organizations such as the California State Rural Health Association (CSRHA), the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), and the California Telehealth Network. The CSRHA was the primary sponsor of the bill. The CCHP Telehealth Model Statute Work Group was instrumental in shaping the legislation to be as inclusive as possible for Californians living in rural areas, and to leverage other healthcare IT initiatives across the state.

Telehealth practices are an extension of telemedicine techniques, and include e-prescribing of medications, email communication between physicians and patients, videoconferencing between medical professionals and the electronic sharing of images such as x-rays for diagnostic purposes. Telehealth medicine often focuses on preventative treatments and typically makes use of clinical informatics technology.