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Shawn Farrell

An early prediction of telemedicine

The TeleDactyl, as depicted on the cover of Science and Invention magazine in 1925.

Shawn Farrell, MBA, is Telemedicine and Telehealth Program Manager at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Back in the 1920s, when medicine was more an art than a science and doctors made home visits, a publishing and radio pioneer named Hugo Gernsback predicted the future of telehealth. As described on Smithsonian.com, he wrote of a device called the TeleDactyl: “a future instrument by which it will be possible for us to ‘feel at a distance’”—dactyl, from the Greek, meaning finger.

Since that time, the practice of medicine has changed dramatically. Our understanding of the human body has advanced beyond our wildest dreams, producing drugs, devices and procedures that have made hospitals a place for healing and curing. At the same time, home visits were abandoned in favor of the office visit, making doctors more efficient. Almost 100 years later, several converging forces are making the home visit popular again, increasing the likelihood of seeing Gernsback’s vision become a reality.

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which will add millions of new patients to the health care system, comes at the same time that we have a shortage of primary care doctors, specialists and other care providers. Full story »

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Telemedicine has the potential to transform healthcare and lower costs. A new Massachusetts law requires insurers to pay for it—but with a potential loophole.

The mandate for broader access to health care in Massachusetts has brought millions of newly insured patients into the system. At the same time, the cost of health care in Massachusetts has continued to rise, and care access issues have emerged.

This past August, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law that attempts to lower costs by shifting providers away from fee-for-service payment to alternative payment models (APMs) in which they incur more financial risk, and encouraging the development of accountable care organizations (ACOs).

One provision of this law requires insurers to pay providers for services delivered remotely via “telemedicine.” Full story »

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