If You Think Telemedicine is About Technology, Think Again

“It’s about what you do with technology,” much of which has existed for years, American Telemedicine Association CEO Jon Linkous said at the Health Policy Institute of Ohio’s telehealth event last week. “It’s not health IT — it’s about people.”

Which is why it’s important not only to get healthcare stakeholders on board, but to have people in the right places to make regulatory changes that will enable telemedicine to break through challenges with licensure and the regulation of Internet prescribing.

Here are six reasons why telemedicine will make strides over the next few years, according to Linkous.

Friends at CMS. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded reimbursement for telemedicine to include smoking cessation services. For 2013, it proposed adding coverage for counseling around alcohol and substance abuse, depression, cardiovascular disease and obesity. In May, CMS announced more than $122 million in innovation grants, several of which went to telemedicine projects. It’s also asked ATA for a list of priorities for where funds should be allocated.

More broadband deployment. Meanwhile, at the Federal Communication Commission, two new commissioners have been sworn in, and telemedicine is a priority to them, Linkous said.

Friends in Congress. It’s not likely that any bills will be passed this year because of the election, but there are a number of legislators who support changes to policy around the use of telehealth.

Friends in unusual places. The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women has resolved to make telemedicine a top priority for state legislatures, which is where many of the important policy changesregarding licensure, e-prescribing and reimbursement are taking place.

Land grab. We know well that hospital M&A activity is high right now, and institutions are developing partnerships and buying up others left and right. As this continues, hospitals will need to use telemedicine to remain competitive.

Standardization and globalization. Hospitals are outsourcing entire components of what they do, Linkous said, and need to use telecommunications to bridge geographical gaps.

Telemedicine shouldn’t be considered a specialty area in healthcare, several of the event’s speakers insisted, but rather a tool that’s used under the surface to improve care. Many people don’t even know they’re using it, Linkous noted, which demonstrates that it eventually can be seamlessly integrated into care.

Source:  Deanna Pogorelc, MedCity News


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