Telemedicine is an exciting new frontier in health care that can provide more accessible, streamlined treatment by connecting patients and clinicians virtually. U.S. Pain Foundation is pleased to announce telemedicine as one of its new state advocacy priorities.

“We believe that telemedicine has the potential to improve the lives of chronic pain patients,” says Shaina Smith, U.S. Pain director of state advocacy and alliance development. “Many patients with severe pain are limited in their abilities to get to and from doctors’ appointments. Offered in conjunction with traditional, in-office care, telemedicine can help ensure these patients don’t slip through the cracks and are able to get the care they need.”

Telemedicine is not designed to replace in-office visits, but it can serve as a convenient, accessible supplement to traditional care. Most often, telemedicine is practiced through online video conferencing or over the phone, but it can also take the form of email, digital imaging, and other technology.

In addition to benefiting people with disabling health problems who have mobility issues, telemedicine also helps those who live in rural communities, who may have to travel long distances for appropriate care. A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain reviewed eight Canadian patients who each lived about 200 miles from their respective doctors. Researchers found that both patients and doctors saved time and money by meeting virtually.

Beyond providing more physically accessible care, telemedicine may be more cost- and time-effective for patients and clinicians alike. One study found that doctors and patients using telemedicine for chronic pain follow-up care may save money and time.

Although telemedicine holds promise, it is not widely reimbursed by insurers, which means many clinicians do not offer it. According to a poll of 1,500 family physicians published in the American Academy of Family Physicians, only 15 percent had used telemedicine in their practice—but 90 percent said they would if it were appropriately reimbursed.

“As we continue advocating for sound legislation across the U.S., the organization will be focusing its attention on this issue through educating lawmakers and our volunteers,” Smith adds. “Our treatment plan is as individual as we are, therefore insurance companies should cover services which compliment the enrollee’s quality of life, which may very well include telemedicine.”

To learn more about U.S. Pain Foundation’s stance on telemedicine, read its position statement.