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How to Create Strong Telehealth Policies across the States

By Vera Gruessner

- The telemedicine industry plays a role in reforming healthcare across the nation, as more states begin implementing telehealth policies. In particular, video-based messaging platforms aid medical care providers in lowering costs and improving patient health outcomes, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

Telehealth Services

States looking to develop strong telehealth policies need to follow certain steps including foregoing any obstructive and restrictive limitations like geographical boundaries, requirements for an in-person physical exam, or any restrictions on relevant technologies.

Additionally, federal and state telehealth policies that offer coverage for these services on the same level as an in-person visit would benefit healthcare providers throughout the nation. The American Telemedicine Association reports that 29 states have state-wide parity coverage for telehealth services.

Along with the prior suggestions, state telehealth policies should offer greater flexibility instead of static rulings. For example, states would benefit from regularly reviewing telehealth policies and determining whether any changes or enhancements should be made in an effort to improve patient care and health outcomes. Also, it is important to integrate telehealth services into the overall practice of a clinic or hospital.

“Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by healthcare institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services,” stated the American Telemedicine Association.

“Patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers, among other applications, are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.”

Telehealth services bring significant benefits to the patient community. These tools empower consumer choice, reduce health disparities when it comes to medical care access, and improve doctor availability. Patients will be able to choose how they wish to communicate with their physicians and consumers unable to see a doctor in-person will be able to virtually speak with a physician via video messaging.

The quality of care across a state could be impacted with strong telehealth policies as well. Providers and chief information officers would benefit from tracking how telemedicine affects emergency room readmissions, medication adherence, and chronic disease management.

Telemedicine services can also make an impact on the Triple Aim of Healthcare – improved healthcare quality, better public health outcomes, and lower costs. States that develop innovative payment models for telemedicine will create a more collaborative environment, the American Telemedicine Association states.

Over the coming years, telemedicine services will likely evolve and transition as more high-tech video recording systems and remote monitoring tools are established. Telehealth policies will also change as the industry reforms to improve patient care and population health outcomes.


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