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New Telemedicine Law a Boon for Patients in Rural Areas

April 12, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Bob McDonnell has signed the "Telemedicine Bill" into law, and it means that health centers across the state will be able to offer much more in the way of interactive audio, video and other electronic media for diagnosis, treatment and consultations. This is an especially big boost for community health centers and patients in rural communities, where access to specialists for such conditions as heart disease and cancer has been limited, according to Howard Chapman, executive director for Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems.

"We think it will make a big difference in access, especially in certain specialties that are in short supply, and really can't be supported in some of the smaller rural communities."

Chapman says it is often difficult to attract primary doctors and specialists to rural areas, and it's equally difficult for patients to travel great distances to see specialists.

"It makes a whole lot more sense to bring a lot of patients from remote sites, into one area where they can be served. Psychiatry and telepsychiatry are a great means of being able to use and utilize telemedicine."

The new law will mandate that health plans and HMOs pay for telemedicine services. Virginia joins 11 other states that have adopted similar legislation.

Details are at leg6.state.va.us

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA