Telehealth Deployment Is Too Slow, Report Says
Posted at 1:24 p.m. on May 12, 2014
Imagine being able to video conference with your doctor without having to leave home. A new report from the Information Technology & Information Foundation says the technology is there for such telehealth services, but advancement in implementing them has been “disappointingly slow.”
Telehealth services — which the nonpartisan think tank defines for the scope of the report as meaning health care to patients using telecommunications — could provide patients and doctors “multiple benefits, including improvements in health care quality, more convenience, and lower costs,” the report states.
But adoption remains “relatively low,” according to the report, citing a Pew Internet and American Life survey that found that 70 percent of people looked to their health providers for treatment or information when they were last ill, but only a “small fraction” of them used telehealth.
“Despite the widespread availability of the necessary technologies and significant interest among patients, most individuals in the United States do not have routine access to telehealth services because of states and federal laws prohibiting or curtailing its use,” the report states.
The report sees several barriers, including different policies among states on whether and how much health plans within their boundaries — such as Medicaid and private insurance — should be required to cover telehealth services.
“Reimbursement policies have an impact on telehealth adoption: hospitals are more likely to adopt telehealth if they are in states requiring private payers to reimburse telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services,” the report says.
And even the sole “nationally consistent policy for telehealth reimbursement” — under Medicare — is mostly limited to patients in rural areas who have to go to a clinic for the service, according to the report.
The report’s recommendations for policymakers:
- Adopt a standard definition for telehealth;
- Establish a single, national license for telehealth providers;
- Create technology-neutral insurance payment policies;
- Promote interoperability among state prescription drug monitoring programs; and
- Fund research to continually improve the quality and lower the cost of telehealth programs.