Thanks to the federal budget passed by Congress in February and other changes to Medicare, some patients now have more options for telemedicine.

The new budget provisions expand telemedicine coverage to stroke patients, dialysis oversight, and Medicare Advantage plans. As of January 1, Medicare also began allowing doctors to charge the government for remotely monitoring patient vital signs. Patients who use telemedicine receive consultations and check ups from doctors over the internet via secure video feeds.

Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Boston Public Radio Wednesday that telemedicine was a good way to bring care to patients who would not be able receive it without technology.

“I think it is a good idea. You go to many places in the country and there are no doctors around in a lot of rural parts of the United States. ... This is a great way to try to bridge that gap,” said Caplan.

Caplan recommended that patients should also seek in-person visits with a doctor if they are able. If this is not possible, he said, telemedicine is a good alternative.

“There are just a lot of people out there who don’t go to the doctor because they have transportation issues, they can’t get a babysitter, it is just too darn hard for them. I’m gonna say something is better than nothing in this area,” he said. “Until we fix the overall healthcare system, I think telemedicine has a place.”

An unintended effect of telemedicine, Caplan said, is that it may also allow people to access reproductive care that is prohibited in the states they live in.

“There are people living in states that have real restrictions, say, on abortion clinics, they can’t get there. But it is hard to restrict who you see in telemedicine from one state to another. If you want to try and get a day after pill, and that turns out to be a tough thing to attain," said Caplan, "I think telemedicine is going to open the door to more access.”

Art Caplan is head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center ad the co-host of the Everyday Ethics podcast. To hear the entire interview, click on the audio link above.