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Telemedicine is Retail Health Clinics' Newest Tool

Doug Desjardins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 8, 2013

The growing acceptance of telemedicine among insurers should also help HealthSpot's expansion efforts. To date, insurers in 15 states provide reimbursements to patients for telemedicine services, and HealthSpot said that it's "working with physician networks and lobbyists in other states to push telemedicine legislation forward."

Sick at sea
While HealthSpot appears to be the first company to make a concentrated push into nonclinical settings for telemedicine, other companies have been using telemedicine in the workplace for more than a decade.

The ATA, which has been promoting the use of telemedicine and tracking its progress since the association's founding in 1993, said oil and gas companies have been pioneers in telemedicine.

"There are plenty of offshore oil rigs that have a telemedicine service available to their workers," said Forstag. "Instead of having to fly their workers off the rig or fly physicians on to rig, telemedicine consultations are used to handle most of the health problems workers have."

The shipping industry has similarly embraced telemedicine. Forstag said George Washington University in Washington, D.C., established a telemedicine service with major shipping companies more than a decade ago that allows maritime workers at sea to consult with physicians at the university via video conference.

"For the shipping industry, it's a great service because you don't want to have these sailors being transported off and on to ships to treat minor ailments," said Forstag. "And it's the same idea that applies to telemedicine being used in rural areas. It's a great tool to reach people who are not easily accessible."

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