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Policy News

Telemedicine Legislation Making Waves in Washington, Louisiana

By Ryan Mcaskill

There are many states debating telemedicine reimbursement and access. New legislation is being pushed as the technology has cemented itself as a standard healthcare service that is helping improve quality of care and lower costs.

Washington pushes for increased reimbursement

In Washington state, a new bill has taken the next steps to becoming a law. Senate Bill 5175 would expand the number of telemedicine services that insurance providers and Medicaid would have to reimburse. This would improve the quality of care in the state, while lowing treatment costs for patients and medical facilities.

The bill was originally introduced in January by Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville. It passed the Senate unanimously and last week, conversation started with the House Health Care and Wellness Committee where no objections were raised. If it is able to make it out of the committee, it would need to face the house and the goal is for increased reimbursement on telehealth in the state by 2017. There is no estimate of how much this could cost the state.

Denny Lordan, the telemedicine program coordinator for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, told the Spokesman-Review that telemedicine services will help treat time-sensitive emergencies. Rural communities that lack specialists can access individuals across the country to help with patient care.

“If you’re a patient with a stroke presenting in a rural hospital, likely you don’t have the same access to a stroke neurologist as you would in a big city like Spokane,” Lordan said.

He added that at Sacred Heart, there is a team of doctors that communicate through telemedicine regularly. This saves patients from needing to make the longer drive for simpler appointments like medical advice or prescriptions. It also keeps doctors in locations with larger populations, where they can be more effective, but still help out rural areas.

“This is a big step up from Skype,” he said. “It puts the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Lafayette city-parish workers now have access to telehealth

On Friday, Lafayette General Health and the city-parish government announced a new telemedicine clinic that will allow an estimated 2,200 government employees to visit a doctor through video conferencing at city hall with a nurse onsite.

“Telemedicine is a huge new development in health care. It’s an important force in changing the delivery of health care in the United States,” Lafayette General Health President and CEO David Callecod, told the Acadiana Advocate.

Lafayette City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said the goal is to trim costs from the government’s self-funded health insurance program by making it easier to diagnose health problems by reducing the expense of visits to a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office. It can also allow employees who previously would need to take a full day off for a doctor’s appointment to walk down the hall and miss limited time.

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