The idea of Telemedicine/Telehealth has been around for years. California passed its first telehealth laws in 1996. Since then, the concept has caught on in many other states and in the federal government. About 40 states have currently enacted telehealth laws, while Congress has recently adopted and proposed other laws promoting the idea. Telemedicine is defined as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.” Congress has recently proposed a bill that would standardize the definition of telemedicine. Telemedicine focuses on decreasing costs and improving health care delivery, quality, and access to those who were having trouble obtaining treatment. Telemedicine has mostly been focused on providing care to individuals in rural areas where physicians are scarce. However, the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital has been conducting studies and trials over how telemedicine can improve health care treatment and access to veterans living with pulmonary disease, hepatitis C and HIV. Although these studies are slightly biased given the sample size and the population consisting of mostly if not all men, the issues and barriers to treatment are very similar to those that any random population sample size would potentially face.
Utilizing telemedicine with HIV/AIDS treatment would improve health care delivery, quality and access in several ways. Telemedicine provides a convenient way for patients to schedule appointments with medical practitioners from the privacy of the patient’s home or any other designated area in which they feel comfortable. Focusing on the Los Angeles area, the traffic poses as a barrier for any individual to travel and get care. The small study conducted by VA Hospital revealed that travel time reduced the amount of time a patient would need to take out of his day and also reduced the number of cancellations or no shows due to travel time. Additionally, those living with HIV/AIDS would also have their pool of resources greatly expanded as they can choose a medical practitioner specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment from out of state (of course the medical practitioner would need to abide by all state and federal laws). Further, there are a host of reasons why those living with AIDS/HIV do not seek out medical treatment or assistance. The reasons can range from the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, fear of societal reprisal, stereotypes, discrimination, embarrassment, the list could go on. Those who have been victimized or have seen others victimized are deterred from seeking out these treatments. Accordingly, providing a telehealth option where they can obtain treatment from the privacy of their own home would greatly improve and attract individuals living with HIV/AIDS to come forward and receive the treatment that they may need.
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