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December 22, 2014

Telehealth Deployment Is Too Slow, Report Says

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.
  • Gandalf47

    I worked as an executive in a hospital for 25 years and in a public health clinic for five years, and the technology to do this has been “evolving” since the 90′s. In 2001, my small hospital had to pay $1,000,000 to get a semi-”state of the art” computerized system. By today’s standards (computers in our pockets, for example), it was primitive and limited, but was a step in the right direction.

    In the past 15 years, more and more providers are “upgrading” to data systems that will eventually evolve into the type of system envisioned in this article. Like all old technologies, the providers of the tech want to squeeze every cent of profit out of the old systems before investing in the new systems, since health care providers are not the primary advocates of these systems. In fact, many good providers grouse and complain about their “newfangled” systems which require them to take less than five minutes to enter data that can be useful to them and other providers in the future, and more importantly, the patient.

    I agree that the pace has been too slow, but that with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, standardized computerization will improve and actually be used as described in this article within five or ten years – sooner if the will is there. Unfortunately, healthcare administrators and executives will have to be convinced how savings will translate into profits first, but that is a conversation for another time. Hang on folks – it’s coming – albeit very slowly.

  • John Kenner

    Here we find liar and fraud Obama lying about televising the Obamacare debates: http://youtu.be/Api4fUziAnI?t=5s

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