In the classic movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Jimmy Stewart plays an ordinary citizen who challenges the status quo and gets results in Congress.
Telemedicine now has its own “Mr. Smith” – only in this case, he’s “Dr. Reynolds.” Using InTouch Health technology, Dr. Neal Reynolds and four other telemedicine advocates helped convince both chambers of the Maryland general assembly to pass legislation mandating reimbursement for telemedicine services. Dr. Reynolds did a live telemedicine demonstration for the legislators – a neurological examination of a Bell’s palsy patient. Because seeing is believing, Maryland soon joined the ranks of more than a dozen states that have eliminated barriers to telemedicine reimbursement.
These state victories are adding urgency and momentum to pending federal legislation. U.S. Senator Tom Udall of Utah is currently drafting a bill that would give telemedicine a big boost by making physician licenses portable across state lines. The bill faces an uphill fight, and that’s where we can all learn a lesson from Dr. Reynolds.
He could have claimed that he was too busy to deal with legislators. After all, Dr. Reynolds is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the director of the Select Trauma ICU at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. But like our cinematic heroes, he felt that some battles were worth the extra effort. So he met with Maryland lawmakers over the course of 18 months, explaining the issues in detail. Because of his expertise, he was later involved in the drafting of the bill.
Here’s how Dr. Reynolds recalls the experience:
“Passage of the bill was greatly helped by our live telemedicine demonstration to both legislative houses supported by InTouch Health. This is a real lesson in civics, and a reminder that private citizens can actually make a difference against the sometimes baffling bureaucracy.”
Spoken like a real-life Jimmy Stewart. Telemedicine needs more everyday heroes like Neal Reynolds – people who are willing to take the small steps needed to win big victories.