Telemedicine enters the 2016 US presidential primaries

By Brian Dolan
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HillaryClintonTelemedicineDuring a campaign stop in Iowa this week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touted the importance of telemedicine, Politico reported this morning. The entire speech is available from Clinton's campaign, but here's the relevant passage:

"And we also need to do better on health care. Decades ago, I led a commission on rural health in Arkansas that worked on increasing access in remote parts of the state," she said. "Today, our health care system has changed dramatically, but it’s still too difficult for families in rural America to find quality, affordable health care. And I know many families here in Iowa are worried about even more rural hospitals closing. Telemedicine can help  -- and we should streamline licensing and explore how to make that reimbursable under Medicare. Here in Iowa, you just won an important victory, stopping efforts to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing telemedicine services to women who might not be able to make it to a larger city. Thousands of women in Iowa have used these services in recent years. This shouldn’t have to be said, but how can anyone be advocating for denying women access to healthcare?"

In recent years digital health, and telemedicine especially, has crept in to various speeches made by President Obama. Most notably, perhaps, Obama made a somewhat similar remark to Clinton's above during his 2011 State of the Union Address

“This isn’t just about — (applause) — this isn’t about faster internet or fewer dropped calls,” the president said at the time. “It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

In 2013 Obama gave a speech about his management agenda, which included plans for open data initiatives and their importance to kickstarting innovation in various industries. It marked the second high-profile speech by Obama that included a reference mobile or digital health.

“So there is a company called Opower that has used open government data on general energy trends and weather to help families save more than $300 million on their energy bills,” he said at the time. “There’s another company called iTriage, founded by two emergency room doctors, that is using freely downloadable data about healthcare providers from the Department of Health and Human Services to help more than 9 million people find the closest doctors and hospitals that meet their needs. The list goes on. These companies have now hired hundreds of people and they’re still hiring. Millions of people have already used these applications that were created as a consequence of releasing this data.”

In recent months, Obama has also proven to be something of a wearable fitness tracker fan. In February of this year he told Re/Code founder Kara Swisher that he was looking to test out a Fitbit device and an Apple Watch once it came out.

“I don’t have a Fitbit yet, but I work out hard,” he told Swisher. “Word is these Apple Watches might be a good companion for my workouts. So I’m gonna see, I’m gonna test it out.”