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NCPA Study: Government, Insurers Keep Medicine in Stone Age

But Help from Medical Entrepreneurs is Only a Phone Call or E-Mail Away

DALLAS, Nov. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health care entrepreneurs working outside the traditional health insurance payment system are using telephone, e-mail, text messaging and innovative computer software to make medical care more accessible and convenient for patients, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

"Patients often find it difficult to take time off work to see a doctor," said NCPA Senior Fellow Devon Herrick, who authored the study. "In the Information Age, location doesn't matter."

The study notes that the biggest obstacle to Information Age medicine, commonly referred to as telemedicine, is government and traditional insurance, which only reimburses for face-to-face consultations. Therefore, the most interesting developments in telemedicine are occurring outside traditional insurance, both by new medical services and by individual practitioners. For example:
-- Approximately 1 million patients are now subscribers to a nationwide

service operated by TelaDoc Medical Services ( For

a low $35 consultation fee, enrollees can talk to a doctor by phone,

any time day or night.

-- TelaDoc maintains electronic medical records that are available

online, allowing physicians access to patient records anywhere in

the country and ensuring accuracy.

-- Virginia physician Dr. Alan Dappen also practices telemedicine.

Patients can schedule an appointment or e-mail him from his Web

page (

-- Dr. Dappen bills patients in five-minute increments ranging from

$25.50 for in-office visits to $17 for phone consultations. His

office assists patients with insurance billing and also allows them

to pay using PayPal.

Telemedicine provides important new opportunities to improve health care and overcomes a wide range of problems in the traditional health care system. For example:
-- Doctors are hard to see. As many as one in three patients have

trouble seeing a primary care physician, and nearly one in four

have problems taking the time from work to see their doctor.

-- More than half of all emergency room (ER) visits are for nonemergency

health problems. ER visits are extremely costly and could easily

be avoided if patients could contact health care professionals by

phone or by e-mail at any time or day of the week.

-- More than 125 million Americans have chronic conditions, yet most

are not receiving appropriate care, in part because monitoring is

complex and expensive. Yet programs to manage chronic medical

conditions are beginning to use remote monitoring, which research

has shown improves patients' adherence to protocols and can be

outsourced to low-cost, qualified medical providers.

-- The use of electronic medical records improves the quality of care

and reduces medical errors, allowing better coordination of patient

care among different providers.

"Health insurers and the government are keeping the practice of medicine in the Stone Age," said Herrick. "Telemedicine provides patients with convenient high quality care for a lower cost."

The NCPA is an internationally known nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with offices in Dallas and Washington, D. C. that advocates private solutions to public policy problems. We depend on the contributions of individuals, corporations and foundations that share our mission. The NCPA accepts no government grants.

SOURCE National Center for Policy Analysis
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