3 key policy issues related to telehealth

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Telemedicine policy and discussions are mounting. In 2015, 42 states introduced more than 200 telehealth-related bills, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The report examines telehealth policy trends and considerations and identifies the following three policy issues as primary challenges to the adoption and expansion of telehealth nationwide: coverage and reimbursement, licensure and safety and security.

1. Coverage and reimbursement. Payment and coverage for telehealth services widely varies between the public and private sectors and across state lines. The report suggests this variance in payment can influence a clinician's decision to invest in telehealth technology; if a provider is concerned about adequate payment for providing such services, a lack of payment can affect whether they can or are able to invest in such technology.

Additionally, variance in payer coverage for telehealth means some patients have access to these services while others don't. States' reimbursement policies for both private and public payers aren’t uniform.

2. Licensure.State licensing policies can pose challenges to administering telehealth services as clinicians aren't permitted to practice in states other than where they are licensed. According to the report, licensure is based on the location of the patient, so providers must adhere to laws and requirements in the state where the patient is receiving services. As such, clinicians licensed in states other than where the patient is may face challenges in delivering care.

The report suggests new licensing policies can help mitigate the clinician shortage by permitting more clinicians to practice more widely.

3. Safety and security.Amidst all the new capabilities and care delivery models telehealth provides, concerns remain regarding the safety and efficacy of telehealth care. Clinicians are still held to the same standard of care for telehealth services as in-person services, and concerns regarding the comprehensiveness of virtual visits persist.

More articles on telehealth:

Kaiser Permanente invests $10M in telehealth platform Vidyo
Shriners tests pediatric telemedicine program through video chats with Santa
Proposed bill seeks to expand Medicare reimbursement for telehealth

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