A New Jersey Assembly committee plans to consider a measure on Monday that would establish statewide regulations over the use of telemedicine.
The alternative to an in-person visit allows doctors to remotely diagnose and treat patients through telecommunications technology.
Karen Olanrewaju, who represents the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities, said some therapists in South Jersey are using secure computer technology to offer telemedicine services to children with developmental problems.
“We can eliminate concerns about the spread of infection, travel issues particularly during bad winter weather, and significant practitioner shortages in certain regions of the state,” she said.
Dr. Adam Glasofer with the Virtua Health System said it provides thousands of consultations a year through its telemedicine program.
“Through the use of telemedicine services, health systems and insurers can help to improve patient outcomes by offering ease of access, which has the potential to reduce readmission rates by providing preventive care and earlier interventions,” he said.
Ward Sanders, president of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, opposes the bill’s requirement that telemedicine services be reimbursed by insurance companies at the same rate as in-person visits.
“To have a bricks-and-mortar service versus a telemedicine system and require that the law say that the payment must be the same is going to blunt the effectiveness of this — and could reduce some of the cost savings,” Sanders said.
Telemedicine can reduce costs by enhancing preventive care and eliminating unnecessary emergency room visits, said Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex.
“I believe it also saves money to the consumer by allowing them to schedule their visits from wherever they are without having to pay for transportation, without having the potential to use sick or vacation time to leave work to make those visits,” he said.
Senator Jeff Van Drew, who says telemedicine offers tremendous potential, said he is concerned about how extensively it will be used.
“Poison ivy, wonderful. Heart pain, not so good, even if you’re on heart medication as it exists,” said Van Drew, D-Atlantic.