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Physician Telemedicine Services Could Grow with New Policies

By Vera Gruessner

- Physician telemedicine services are continuing to grow in use across the healthcare industry, as doctors are using the technologies to communicate with specialists and consults from other facilities as well as tracking their patients’ health through videoconferencing and remote monitoring tools.

Telehealth Technology Market

The number of patients and caregivers using video consultations and other physician telemedicine services is going to grow significantly throughout the next several years, the Journal of AHIMA reports. A Parks Associates report predicts that the number of families using physician telemedicine services will rise from 900,000 in 2013 to as much as 22.6 million families by 2018.

The telehealth market is predicted to rise from a mere $100 million in 2013 to as much as $13.7 billion over the next three years. Since the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs push forth greater patient engagement through its meaningful use objectives, it is likely that healthcare providers are more likely to offer telehealth services over the coming years in order to boost patient engagement with their health and wellness.

While the general growth of physician telemedicine services is likely to continue, there are several challenges and obstacles that do stand in the way of some healthcare providers attempting to adopt these technologies. These barriers include licensing requirements especially when attempting to offer physician telemedicine services across state lines as well as telehealth reimbursement from insurers and federal agencies like Medicare.

Additionally, ease of use is important for physician telemedicine services or else providers will be less likely to adopt and implement telehealth systems. It is important that patients, doctors, and other consults are able to easily utilize the telemedicine platforms in order to ensure adequate telehealth implementation rates across the healthcare industry.

A study published in the BMC Health Services Research journal states that clinicians will need assistance from IT staff in order to properly utilize telehealth technology toward better patient care.

“The study highlights that introducing and implementing a telehealth service that is to be integrated into mainstream bring many changes to the clinical routines of the user, interaction with patients and expertise of the user, all of which can be experienced as threatening,” the authors wrote. “If adequate steps are not taken and the concerns of users are not addressed in a timely manner, results can be detrimental to service integration.”

A large portion of overcoming some typical obstacles behind the telehealth movement is to pass vital legislation and policies that would improve telemedicine coverage, reimbursement, and licensing requirements. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) explained on its website that Congress is making headway in new telemedicine legislation.

Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Gregg Harper(R-MS) are both introducing new bills into Congress that would increase Medicare payments and coverage options for providers who have integrated telehealth technology in their medical practice.

“Thompson’s bill would expand telehealth coverage under the Medicare program implemented in three phases. Would establish additional allowable sites of care when performed via telecommunications, would authorize remote patient management services for chronic health conditions, and would provide coverage under Medicare for these telehealth services,” HIMSS reported. “Harper’s bill would amend the Social Security Act and the Communications Act of 1934 to expand access to and improve the quality of telehealth services by creating incentives and standards for quality measurement and reporting processes.”

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) will also receive coverage for incorporating remote monitoring technology and physician telemedicine services if these policies are instituted. The healthcare industry is expected to experience a rise in the use of telehealth technology across physician practices due to the impact of new state and federal telemedicine policies being introduced into Congress.


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