[Reblog] Tele Taking Off (Telehealth, Telemedicine…)
In Washington, sometimes the most significant developments quietly creep up on you. No epic debate or triumphant bill-signing ceremony, but rather a collection of seemingly small events begin to tip the scales.
That’s what is happening today with telehealth. Almost under the radar, federal and state officials have been giving a much-needed push in support of virtual care. Though the technology has long existed, until recently the money had not followed. And sadly in our current fee-for-service healthcare system, little gets done without a payment code, even if it makes eminent medical and economic sense.
Consider some of the recent action. In November, the Department of Agriculture released more than $8.5 million in health-related grants to 31 recipients in rural communities. Many are using the money to purchase telehealth equipment such as high-quality cameras and broadband Internet.
The previous month the federal government issued rules expanding Medicare payment for a range of telehealth services. Caregivers can earn about $42 per month for chronic care management under the new regulations. Seven new procedure codes were also added, covering such services as annual wellness visits and psychotherapy.
And the end-of-year spending bill approved by Congress designates more than $26 million for telemedicine programs largely in rural communities and through the Veteran’s Administration.
Legislation filed in the new Congress would continue the trend loosening anti-kickback restrictions for the purchase of telemedicine equipment and requirements that physicians receive a separate license to practice in each state (a major barrier for doctors aiming to deliver virtual care to patients across the nation.)
Consumers can’t wait. Nearly 40% of 1,000 adults nationwide surveyed by PwC’s Health Research Institute say they would be willing to have an appointment with a physician via smartphone, representing a potential $42.1 billion market. Significant percentages of American consumers indicate they are eager for virtual care alternatives such as a device that attaches to a mobile phone, snaps an image of an ear canal or rash and transmits it to a physician for an instant reading.
- What is Telemedicine (American Telemedicine Association)
- Telehealth (US Department of Health and Human Services)
“The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care EnvironmentInstitute of Medicine report (11/20/2012)Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.HRSA works to increase and improve the useoftelehealth to meet the needs of underserved people by:
- Fostering partnerships within HRSA, and with other Federal agencies, states and private sector groups to create telehealth projects.
- Administering telehealth grant programs.
- Providing technical assistance.
- Evaluating the use of telehealth technologies and programs.
- Developing telehealth policy initiatives to improve access to quality health services.
- Promoting knowledge exchange about “best telehealth practices.” “
- Telemedicine (Medicaid.gov)
“Provider and Facility GuidelinesMedicaid guidelines require all providers to practice within the scope of their State Practice Act. Some states have enacted legislation that requires providers using telemedicine technology across state lines to have a valid state license in the state where the patient is located. Any such requirements or restrictions placed by the state are binding under current Medicaid rules.”
- Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Telemedicine
“Since itsinception, the Telemedicine program has conductedapproximately 19,000 consultations. Approximately 5000 such consults in 12 different medical specialties are now completed each year. Medical careis initiated at the local prison by the nurses and physiciansonsite. Telemedicine is then used to present the inmate and his or her medical condition to the specialty physicians at The Ohio State University Medical Center forappropriate care. In addition to the medical services provided by theOSUMC,ODRC staff conduct psychiatric and dietary consultations from a Central Office video systemlocated in the Office of Correctional Health Care. Thirty-two prisonsparticipate in the Telemedicine program.The Telemedicine network is part of a larger ODRC videoconferencing network that also includes the Division of Parole and Community Services’ eight regional offices and 3 district offices. The prison school system known as the Ohio Central School System has 6 distance learning centers included on the network as well. Thus, the videoconferencing network is used to not only to provide improved access to specialty care, but also continuing education to health care, administrative, security, and other support staff, as well as legal hearings, parole board hearings, administrative meetings, and patient transfer meetings.”
- Telemedicine at UPMC (University of Pittsburg Medical Center)
“The UPMC Telemedicine Program connects small or rural community hospitals and outpatient locations to specialists at UPMC, allowing patients to receive world-class care close to home.
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