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Why Telehealth Technology Regulations Need to Expand

By Vera Gruessner

- Telehealth technology is being implemented throughout the United States at a rapid pace, especially in more rural locations suffering from doctor shortages. Since telemedicine services offer a faster and more efficient method of communicating with one’s primary care physician via videoconferencing tools, healthy patients are less in need of brick-and-mortar doctor visits. Essentially, telehealth technology reduces the need for travel, decreases costs of care, and improves access to healthcare services across the country.

Telemedicine Services and Policies

In order to fully implement telemedicine among medical facilities, it is important to develop state and federal regulations that ensure healthcare payers fully reimburse doctors who use these tools. Additionally, various laws must be followed to ensure telehealth technology is used appropriately among the patient population.

To learn more about the regulations surrounding telehealth technology, posed questions to Dr. Reena Pande, cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer of AbilTo.

What is your opinion on public policies surrounding telehealth technology? Do you support payment parity laws?

Dr. Reena Pande: “As a company—and personally as a physician—we support payment parity laws. Telemedicine is an incredible tool that allows many patients to access needed care that might not otherwise be available to them. Not only do payment parity laws make these resources available, but the laws spur innovation and care delivery in the private sector, and open the door for health plans to invest in new technologies.”  

READ MORE: Blue Cross Blue Shield of GA Offers Maternity Telehealth Program

“We are only at the beginning of understanding how to effectively use telehealth resources and capabilities. The recent passing of the ‘doc fix’ bill has certain telemedicine provisions included in it. It’s a start, but not the be all, end all.”

Should doctors be able to practice telehealth across state borders?

Dr. Reena Pande: “Yes, telehealth increases patient access and engagement, lowers administrative costs, and has been shown to improve patient outcomes. Technology now frees us to deliver care outside of the confines of the clinic or the hospital, making it simple for patients to engage and get needed care in the comfort of their homes, offices, or wherever convenient.”

“In some cases, expert care may be made available by removing geographic limitations. For instance, a specialist on the opposite side of the country may be able to assess a condition via video or imaging technology transmitted via remote means and may be able to provide expertise that is unavailable locally. However, state licensure regulations as well as other legislative and regulatory issues still impede the practice of telehealth across state borders, and these issues need to be tackled to allow broader uptake of telehealth practices nationwide.”

How can physicians bring about widespread use of telehealth in the patient community?

READ MORE: Montana Bill Seeks to Establish Telemedicine Practice Standards

Dr. Reena Pande: “Physicians need not feel threatened by novel technologies, but rather need to embrace these new tools and acknowledge that finding simple and innovative ways for patients to engage is beneficial for everyone.”

“Physicians should emphasize the convenience and ease of use through digital or remote means, while also inspiring confidence in the security and efficacy of treatment through these means. State licensure and legislative barriers must be addressed on a national level so that physicians may have the opportunity to treat a wider patient community.”

What steps can doctors take to improve patient outcomes through telemedicine?

Dr. Reena Pande: “One component of improving patient outcomes through telemedicine is in engaging patients at the right time through targeted, proactive outreach. First, as providers, we must find and engage patients when they need help most.”

“Second, it is necessary to find ways to keep them engaged through the course of their treatment, so that they are most likely to achieve optimal clinical outcomes. Through telemedicine, doctors are able to provide more comprehensive and convenient access to patients, so that they do not fall through the cracks in the system. By keeping patients engaged in their health, patient outcomes are sure to improve. Telemedicine helps make this possible.”

READ MORE: Nebraska Joins Telehealth Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

What advice would you give to clinicians attempting to increase patient engagement in their practices?  

Dr. Reena Pande: “Physicians need to focus as much on identifying the barriers that keep our patients from staying meaningfully engaged in their own health as they do on clinical care. Helping our patients overcome the socioeconomic, behavioral, and real-life barriers to engagement and successful behavior change can have significant impact on overall medical health outcomes. We physicians can sometimes be stuck in our ways! But it’s our responsibility to make sure our patients are receiving the best clinical care solutions, and for many of those patients a telehealth care delivery option may provide just that.”


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