- There are a number of different obstacles standing in the way of widespread telehealth adoption. From site restrictions to prohibiting providers from practicing across state borders, legislative changes will need to take place before telemedicine services can truly benefit patients all around the country.
As previously reported by mHealthIntelligence.com, developing uniform public policies for telehealth adoption is key, The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) positioned. It would benefit employees and their families if telehealth adoption policies were the same regardless of what state the workers resided in.
To learn more about telemedicine legislative policies and the organization’s stance on the telehealth adoption, mHealthIntelligence.com spoke with Allison Wils, Director of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee.
mHealthIntelligence.com: What is The ERISA Industry Committee doing right now to promote telehealth adoption?
Allison Wils: The ERISA Industry Committee is the only national association advocating solely for the employee benefit and compensation interests of America’s largest employers. ERIC member companies have employees in all 50 states so we’re very active at the state level. Since the launch of our initiative we’ve identified a lot of state issues with the implementation of telehealth and we are actively seeking opportunities to participate in that policy and rulemaking. We’ve already weighed in in four states –Arkansas, Idaho, Colorado, and North Dakota –on a variety of rulemaking and policymaking initiatives by each of those states’ licensing boards. ERIC is also sharing information and coordinating our efforts with our members on a regular basis through our own taskforce initiative that we have internally.
We also have a variety of educational opportunities including a summit that we hosted this Thursday. We brought together ERIC members and telehealth stakeholders to educate about what the latest issues are and opportunities related to telehealth.
mHealthIntelligence.com: What are the most important policies that your organization supports regarding state telehealth laws and regulations?
AW: ERIC has identified four key issues to date. We support policies that don’t require or impose additional requirements on providers when using telehealth to provide their services. We see telehealth as a different medium of providing care but it should be treated the same as in-person care.
ERIC encourages policies that do not have originating site restrictions, where you have to be at a certain location with a provider in order to be able to access telehealth service, and supports technology-neutral policies that don’t favor one type of technology over another. Some states define technology to be only audio-visual, real-time, two-way communication. Also, we support policies that facilitate interstate practice by providers since telehealth offers a lot of benefits including increased access to providers where there might be a provider shortage or geographic limitations. We really want health care providers to be able to provide their services to people in multiple states.
mHealthIntelligence.com: What does telemedicine offer to employees? What are the biggest benefits you’ve seen?
AW: Telemedicine offers employees increased access to healthcare services because of the increased flexibility. It gives employees access to care when and where they need it. Being able to have 24/7 access to providers whether at home, at work, or in transit is a huge benefit to employees.
Employees like the benefits of telehealth and want it to continue. Employers enjoy it because they want happy and healthy employees. A happy and healthy workforce is a great workforce. It’s a benefit for both because of the increased access to care and flexibility that telehealth offers – whether that means being able to tie into an employer clinic on-site or for an employee to have access to care on their way to work instead of having to take two or three hours out of their day to go visit a doctor off-site. It’s a benefit for everyone.
mHealthIntelligence.com: What are the biggest drawbacks of some state legislation regarding telehealth?
AW: The legislation varies but there are quite a few obstacles, including as I previously mentioned, requiring prior in-person visits to create a provider-patient relationship, requiring originating site restrictions, favoring one type of technology over another and defining telehealth really narrowly.
ERIC would prefer to see a broader definition of telehealth that allows for more access.