Bipartisan bill would expand 'telemedicine' in Minnesota

Thanks to telemedicine, Mayo Clinic neurologist Bert Vargas can use a video camera to examine concussion patients in rural hospitals hundreds of miles from Rochester.

It's a medical practice hospital and doctors want to expand in Minnesota.

"The technology is there, and our consumers are expecting this from us," says Essential Health's Maureen Ideker.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is now onboard as well, as a bill under consideration at the Capitol would force insurance companies to treat telemedicine sessions in the same way as traditional visits to a doctor's office.

Advocates see it as an advantage for rural patients and clinics who don't have enough specialty doctors.

Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) says, "The potential of this technology could be used for telebehavior health, telepharmacy, teledentristry, telestroke, teleobgyn, all services that have shortage issues in greater Minnesota or quite frankly in the metro."

Doctors say telemedicine is all about saving time for the patient and getting them treatment before their condition becomes an expensive trip to the ER.

It's also about saving money and improving healthcare results. A recent study in the American Journal of Managed Care showed patients treated in Mayo Clinic's telestroke network saved about $1,400 in costs and lived longer.