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Policy News

Legislative Barriers the Telemedicine Field Needs to Overcome

By Vera Gruessner

- The telemedicine field is now growing across the country due to its benefits for the patient community. Along with offering more convenience for those unable to take time off work and drive long distances to see their healthcare provider, the telemedicine field also expands access to care among the elderly, the handicapped, and patients residing in rural locations and facing physician shortages.

Telehealth Public Policies

The telemedicine field has grown so large that a wide variety of organizations are supporting its implementation in the healthcare space and various legislative actions have taken part in incorporating reimbursement for telehealth use among insurance companies and Medicare programs.

The ERISA Industry Committee is one such organization that supports the expansion of the telemedicine field and considers the needs of employers and employees in the inclusion of these healthcare services.

In a letter to the Arkansas State Medical Board’s Telemedicine Advisory Committee, the ERISA Industry Committee urges the importance of maintaining affordable yet high-quality healthcare services for workers and families throughout the nation.

“Telemedicine allows employees and their families to gain access to health care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether at home, in transit, or at work. With telemedicine, standard office hours and proximity to a doctor are no longer barriers to needed care,” the organization explained in the letter.

In particular, the organization urges the need for consistent public policies surrounding telehealth implementation. For example, among large companies with sites located around the country, it would be beneficial if employees and their families enjoyed the same telehealth policies regardless of what state they reside in, the letter states.

The letter delves into some of the most important benefits of telemedicine services including accessibility and flexibility for the patient community. Additionally, telehealth benefits families living in rural communities as well as the underserved and elderly residing in urban centers.

The organization went into detail about the importance of avoiding some regulatory requirements such as site restrictions regarding where patients may access telehealth tools to communicate with their medical provider. Essentially, the ERISA Industry Committee supports developing public policies governing telehealth visits in a similar way to in-person physician visits.

“ERIC respects and supports the role of the Arkansas State Medical Board (ASMB) in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the State of Arkansas, and the goal of ensuring that the highest quality of health care is provided in the state,” the letter stated. “ERIC believes that the standards governing in-person visits should apply in the same manner to telemedicine visits. In other words, there should not be artificial barriers that unnecessarily limit access to medical services provided through telemedicine when there are existing requirements in place to hold providers to high standards of care.”

It is also important for legislative actions regarding telehealth use to consider the overall needs of patients such as gaining greater access to healthcare services via video-based consultations with their primary care physicians.

In a separate letter to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the ERISA Industry Committee promoted the need for licensing policies allowing inter-state practice of telehealth technology. The organization also pressed the need for “technology-neutral requirements” in order to allow medical practices and hospitals to utilize varying telehealth platforms.

There are greater benefits of technology use such as increased worker satisfaction, the organization stated in its letter.

“The response from employees who have used telehealth services is very positive,” the organization commented in the letter. “Employees want to minimize the time spent attending to their health needs, or that of loved ones, and appreciate the opportunity to reach a health care professional at times and locations that are convenient to them. They like the service and want it to continue.”


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