Transcending Turf Wars

March 13, 2013 by InTouch Health

A recent New York Times story chronicled the downside of hospital and physician practice consolidation. The article noted that employed physicians are facing increasing pressure to admit patients only to the hospital that signs their paychecks – often for procedures that aren’t truly necessary. This is causing some hospital systems to be the overwhelmingly dominant player in their area, which allows them to slowly drive up prices. And it often forces patients to drive up to 40 miles further for treatment – something that stroke patients can ill afford to do.

This is obviously not the intent of healthcare reform – and telemedicine is helping to level the playing field while actually lowering costs and providing better, more timely care.

Here’s how it works in the telestroke field. A family practice physician examines a man who’s showing signs of a mild stroke. She immediately sends the patient to the nearest telemedicine-equipped hospital, which isn’t the one she works for but is 20 miles closer. A remote specialist quickly determines that the patient needs immediate tPA administration, so medical necessity is documented on the spot. The result: faster treatment at a lower cost than what the “preferred” hospital can provide.

No patient wants to be a pawn in a battle between sparring health systems – or to undergo needless tests and hospitalization. That’s why the Office of the Inspector General and other regulators are stepping up efforts to stop these practices.

Telemedicine lets us rise above the health system turf wars that threaten to undermine the collaborative spirit of health reform. Remote presence technology can help put an end to this Hatfield and McCoy squabbling so that patients get the highest level of care, delivered impartially at a lower cost. That’s where the reform caravan needs to be heading.