Dr. William Thornbury: Kentucky needs telehealth to bring it out of 'horse-and-buggy era'

One family physician says there's a better way to help patients in Kentucky, a state that’s nearly 3,700 physicians short of the number it needs, reports The Daily Independent.

William C. Thornbury Jr., MD, CEO and medical director of Glasgow, Ky.-based Medical Associates Clinic, told the state Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare on July 24 that telehealth could treat the state's large population of chronically ill patients, which represent about 40 percent of a typical family physician's patient caseload.

Studies have suggested telehealth can increase the capacity of family physicians by 19 percent, according to The Daily Independent. "We can deliver care to people where they are, when they need it, and by their own doctor," Dr. Thornbury told the committee.

Telehealth would take family medical care "from the horse-and-buggy era to the automobile era," Dr. Thornbury said. However, to invest in the technology, the state must ensure insurers and third-party payers cover healthcare providers for remote services at equal rates to what they would receive from in-person patient visits, Dr. Thornbury said, according to The Daily Independent.

Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, recently introduced a bill in the Kentucky Legislature that would require parity for telehealth payments, but he said the short nonbudget session did not offer sufficient time to address lawmakers' questions. Mr. Riley plans to reintroduce the legislation in the 2018 session, reports The Daily Independent.

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