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Policy News

Three Themes Alter Evolution of Physician Telehealth Policies

By Vera Gruessner

- Physician telehealth policies are undergoing a variety of changes throughout the country, as more than half of the states are developing laws to promote use and reimbursement of telemedicine services. In fact, states are adopting legislation to promote telehealth use at a very rapid pace, according to JDSupra.

Telemedicine Technology and Legislation

There are a variety of different issues that providers of telehealth services should consider before implementing a telemedicine program, especially as the healthcare landscape continues evolving due to new physician telehealth policies. Along with the following steps for guiding telemedicine adoption, mHealthIntelligence.com has previously reported on developing effective telehealth policies throughout the nation.

Continual Growth of the Telehealth Field

Right now, the telehealth space is growing rapidly, as more stakeholders continue to invest in this segment of the healthcare industry. The venture capital market is showing more interest than before in telemedicine technologies, JDSupra reported.

 Additionally, the digital health segment is also seeing growth among venture capitalists. Employers who invest funds in health insurance coverage also see the potential benefits of telehealth services as a means toward reducing overall medical costs.

Already, the first six months of 2015 brought in $2.1 billion in funding for digital health technology companies, which further shows how quickly the telehealth market is growing across the country.

State Border Licensing Requirements Impact Telehealth Providers

While it may seem that doctors using telemedicine technology would be able to offer their services across state borders and even internationally, physician telehealth policies often prohibit this type of practice or at least restrict its use.

Doctors are required to follow their state legislation requirements as well as federal laws when using telehealth technology. JDSupra continues to discuss another topic physicians should be aware of – contractual arrangements made in one state may not work as effectively in another.

The majority of telehealth services will need to be offered from the same state that the patient is located in. However, over the last year, there have been some developments toward improving the state border requirements. For example, the Federation of State Medical Boards’ Physician Licensure Compact could reduce the complications of practicing telehealth services across state borders.

“Under the Compact, participating state medical boards would retain their licensing and disciplinary authority, but would agree to share information and processes essential to the licensing and regulation of physicians who practice across state borders,” JDSupra reported.

Nationwide Telehealth Commercial Insurance Coverage Expands

Health insurers across the country have begun enacting physician telehealth policies to cover reimbursement to the same ends that in-person healthcare services are funded. These changes to coverage policies are meant to spur innovation and the implementation of telehealth technology among a variety of different healthcare specialties.

At this current point in time, 29 states along with the District of Columbia have laws in place that require payment parity between telemedicine provisions and in-person healthcare services.

“In 2015, the Telehealth Association of Florida was created in an effort to develop a focused voice for legislative change, and providers in Massachusetts have continued to work for a legislative approach to open the commercial market with payment parity with no fewer than six telehealth bills offered for discussion,” the JDSupra article stated.

“Many hospitals and health care providers already offer telehealth services, and patients have been able to access virtual care as part of these health care delivery models. But these laws are expected to drive the commercial insurance market to expand telehealth coverage, allowing telehealth to be enjoyed by more patients across the country. Successes in these 29 states will signal the promise of telehealth coverage and payment parity as the remaining 21 states consider their own legislation.”

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