States take steps to bring telemedicine to citizens

25th July, 2013 - Posted by Pamela Markle - No Comments

In a previous post on the Public Sector View, I discussed the recent American Telemedicine Association’s 2013 Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit. I shared how the conversations I had at the conference – as well as the general feeling among the healthcare decision makers and experts in attendance – all seemed to indicate that policies currently hampering telemedicine adoption are poised to change.

The reason for this change is simple economics. Telemedicine can help drive down the cost of care, cutting the expenditures for healthcare services across all levels of government in today’s very difficult economic and budget environment.

Just how much can telemedicine save? According to a recent report released by Juniper Research, a leading analyst firm in the wireless sector, the savings that can be generated by the adoption of remote patient monitoring alone is staggering. The report forecasts a cumulative savings of up to $36 billion globally over the next five years just by using mHealth solutions to monitor patients with chronic conditions.

It’s no surprise that between the cost savings that telemedicine delivers and its ability to improve patient outcomes, states are starting to take steps towards telemedicine adoption. Just a few weeks ago it was announced that both Kentucky and Missouri have begun to implement policies that will result in the increased use of telemedicine for the delivery of care to constituents.

Kentucky has issued final rules expanding coverage of telemedicine services for Medicaid beneficiaries. Under these rules, healthcare providers using interactive video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions to provide services to patients will qualify for reimbursement. Medicaid beneficiaries will also receive access to a variety of other services, such as physical and mental health evaluations, counseling and remote disease monitoring.

Meanwhile, Missouri became the nineteenth state to pass a state-wide parity law for private insurance coverage of telemedicine. The bill requires private insurers to reimburse healthcare providers for services provided via telemedicine solutions the same as they would services provided in-person.

Reimbursement remains one of the largest bottlenecks for telemedicine adoption across the nation. By enabling providers to get reimbursed for telemedicine services, these states are opening the door for or increased adoption, better patient outcomes and decreased healthcare costs.

“This is a true win-win scenario,” said Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer of the American Telemedicine Association. “First, it is a big victory for patients in Kentucky and Missouri, who now have greater access to the best-possible healthcare. It’s also a win for the treasury and taxpayers in those states, who will save significantly on public healthcare costs.”

Despite the good news coming out of Kentucky and Missouri, there are still roadblocks limiting the adoption of telemedicine from coast to coast.

“While states and private payers are making big strides forward to improve access to care and reduce costs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are still dragging their feet,” said Linkous. “The federal government places unnecessarily strict barriers and restraints on how Medicare patients are served when they deserve access to quality healthcare, regardless of geographic location and technology used.”

Despite those that remain behind the curve, momentum is firmly behind telemedicine adoption as an increasing number of states remove barriers to reimbursement. As providers get assurances that they’ll be reimbursed for services delivered, telemedicine adoption will accelerate – to the benefit of both patients and states budgets.

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