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By Liz Warren-Pederson

When two of his students spent 16 hours each in the emergency room waiting to be seen for injuries, Amar Gupta, Thomas R. Brown Chair in Management and Technology at the Eller College, applied his research to explore a new paradigm.

Gupta’s research focuses on developing technology-enabled workflow schedules that cross time zones, even international boundaries. Over the course of his career, he has demonstrated how the so-called 24-hour knowledge factory — a concept in which work is completed by a team operating in different time zones — can increase efficiency across industries, including information technology and medicine.

Now he’s turned his focus on telemedicine. In a new paper, coauthored with Deth Sao of the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law, Gupta calls into question the constitutionality of current legal barriers to the practice of telemedicine in the U.S. and abroad.

Gupta says that telemedicine, a growing model by which medical information is transferred through interactive audiovisual media for consulting, remote medical procedures, or examinations, could be a pragmatic solution to addressing the rising costs of and widespread access to healthcare in the U.S.

“Telemedicine holds enormous promise for new, cost-effective, and efficient methods of delivering healthcare across geographic distances,” Gupta says. “However, these benefits are constrained by overlapping, inconsistent, and inadequate regulatory frameworks, as well as standards imposed by state governments and professional organizations.”

Gupta says that proponents of regulatory barriers point to public safety concerns; states have traditionally held authority over police and this rationale was extended to include public health issues. His paper argues that such barriers not only fail to advance public policy goals, but are unconstitutional when they restrict the practice of telemedicine across state and national borders.

“The interstate and international nature of telemedicine calls for the centralized authority of the federal government,” Gupta adds. “This position is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and other governing principles.”

Finally, Gupta and Sao observe that the U.S. experience has some similarities to that of other nations, and represents a microcosm of the international community’s need and struggle to develop a uniform telemedicine regime. Just as with state governments in the U.S., nations are no longer able to view healthcare as a traditional domestic concern and must consider nontraditional options to resolve the dilemmas of rising costs and discontent in the delivery of health services to their people.

Gupta is working with multiple editors on the paper’s journal placement. “This is the first time in my 35-year career that editors of journals have called me to convince me why I should publish in their journal,” he says.