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Although telemedicine has been around for years, it is gaining traction as never before. Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs have been reimbursing doctors and hospitals that provide care remotely to rural and underserved areas. Now a growing number of big insurance companies, like the UnitedHealth Group and several Blue Cross plans, are starting to market interactive video to large employers. The new federal health care law provides $1 billion a year to study telemedicine and other innovations.
With the expansion of reimbursement, Americans are on the brink of “a gold rush of new investment in telemedicine,” says Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., managing partner at Vesalius Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Houston. He has worked on telemedicine projects since he helped build medical systems for NASA during his days as an astronaut in the 1990s.