Mississippi emerges as leader in telemedicine

The Magnolia State ranks at or near the bottom in most health rankings: worst infant mortality and most kids born with low birth weight; second-to-highest rate of obesity and cancer deaths; second from the last in diabetes outcomes.

But the state is a leader in one aspect of health care: telemedicine. The state’s only academic hospital has remote connections with 165 sites, providing specialized services to some of the state’s most far-flung, medically deprived cities and towns. Mississippi’s telemedicine program, ranked among the seven best in the country, has inspired neighboring Arkansas to take bigger steps in some areas of the field, and the impact of its success is making waves in Washington as well.

Mississippi’s congressional delegation is at the center of a small group of lawmakers championing telemedicine. Trent Lott of Mississippi and former Senate majority leader, is lobbying big for the technology, which could generate fat profits if Medicare starts reimbursing it in a significant way. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, in a visit last December, said the state has “solved the perennial challenge of getting broadband to its most rural areas.”