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How HIM Professionals Can Play a Role in Telehealth Services

By Sara Heath

Telehealth and telemedicine technology is growing in popularity for a number of reasons, such as offering increased access to care for patients in rural areas and lowering costs for simple visits. Because of its wide variety of benefits, telehealth is becoming a hit with patients and is growing in popularity with providers.

telehealth and telemedicine can greatly affect HIM professionals

In a recent article posted to the Journal of AHIMA, CEO and founder of MYidealDOCTOR Telehealth Adrian Davis explains important factors in telehealth that HIM professionals need to be aware of.

Options for Out-of-State Provider Licensure

One of the major hurdles that arise with regard to telehealth is the issue of provider licensure. Although a provider may be licensed in, for example, Arkansas, they may deliver telehealth services to a patient in Ohio. This raises the question: does a provider need to be licensed in both states in order to provide the telehealth care in Ohio?

Davis explains that there have been several efforts to account for this issue. First, there is the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, in which a provider may obtain a license for another compact state in an expedited process. There is a similar option being developed for psychiatric and behavioral health professionals.

Davis also discusses the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 (TELE-MED Act), which would allow for a provider in one state to provide telehealth care for a Medicare patient in another state without obtaining a second license. According to Davis, the details of this legislation are still in the works.

Health Data Security over Telehealth Systems

HIM professionals also hold a major stake in telehealth services with regard to health data security. Because the entirety of telehealth services operates electronically and online, it is critical that HIM professionals design policies that are HIPAA compliant.

EHR and Telehealth System Interoperability

Davis explains that currently, there is no way for health information gathered in a telehealth visit to be easily shared with a patient’s other healthcare providers. However, considering the importance of medical data interoperability, Davis maintains that it is critical for HIM professionals to develop an infrastructure where secure telehealth data sharing may occur.

There is No Single Method for Telehealth Reimbursement

Because telehealth is a new and emerging method of healthcare delivery, there is no definitive method for reimbursement for telehealth services. However, some insurers do have deals arranged with providers to account for this issue. Davis explains that many employers also fund an employee’s telehealth visit on the premise that this will save the employee time and keep him or her from missing work.

Telehealth Helps in More than Just the ER Setting

Although it is clear that telehealth helps ease the influx of patients admitted into the ER, Davis states the benefits can be more widespread. For example, a heart condition patient can be hooked up to a remote monitoring system. If the patient’s physician detects an issue via the remote monitor, they may then engage in a telehealth visit before determining if the patient needs to be admitted into the hospital.

Davis states that HIM professionals “play a key role in nearly every piece of the puzzle” when it comes to developing telemedicine services. By helping to create the telehealth infrastructure, HIM professionals can help make telemedicine a fixture in healthcare delivery.

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