Telehealth push ahead of 2015 session


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A trip to the doctor's office could be as easy as a walk to your computer if Florida legislators take up digital medicine.

A telehealth push is happening ahead of 2015's legislative session. Florida TaxWatch says the digital medicine can save lives and dollars.

"If we reduce ER wait times by just a fraction, we're talking billions," said Robert Weissert, of the policy group.

Weissert said besides the bottom line, the technology could be paying off in human capital as well.

"If someone avoids the emergency department, it's not just that we didn't pay money for the emergency care, it's that they didn't have to go to the emergency department, which means they have a better quality of living, which means they're healthier and they're being more productive," Weissert said.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is also on board. It said telemedicine can help in the battle between a growing number of patients and shrinking number of doctors.

"In Florida by 2030 we're going to have 6 million more people in the state," said David Christian, of the Chamber. "We have an aging physician workforce as well as a growing gap of health care professionals, and we think that telemedicine can help bridge that gap."

Supporters say that a face-to-face video conference between a doctor and a patient would be great. But one road block has always been who would be giving out the advice.

A number of issues will need to be ironed out to put a law into place. The Florida Medical Association maintains anyone practicing telemedicine should be licensed in Florida.

Telehealth bills were proposed in this past year's legislative session, but both died in the final days after the House and Senate couldn't agree on the issue.