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sick man on telemedicine house call with doctor

Telemedicine House Calls: Our Past Is Catching up to Our Future

After years of evolution, the health care delivery system is slowly returning to its roots: house calls. In the 1800s, ailing patients remained at home, waiting for the roaming doctor to arrive via horseback. By the mid-20th century, home visits were abandoned in favor of bringing ill patients to the doctor’s stationary office. Fast forward to the 2020s: The ubiquitous nature of technology, paired with looming physician shortages and climbing health care costs, is bringing us full circle via telemedicine house calls. Along with the highly touted benefits of in-home virtual visits, clinicians have found that this method provides information about the patient’s home environment that is often overlooked during traditional office visits. This additional insight can be a major factor in designing an appropriate treatment plan that accounts for the daily obstacles presented in the patient’s home. Read more

Possible Telemedicine CPT Codes Shutdown Looms

Telemedicine CPT Codes in Danger

We may still be in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t stopping policy makers from planning ahead to determine whether temporary telemedicine CPT codes should be a permanent part of the “new normal” that is expected to reign after the emergency situation dissipates. As mentioned previously, quick changes to legislation, especially those that reimburse telemedicine visits at the same value as in-office visits, made telemedicine a much more convenient and financially viable alternative to the traditional model of in-office visits—for both patients and providers. As we look ahead to 2021, however, debate surrounds the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’ decision to drop a large majority of the recently-enacted billing codes, which may return the state of telemedicine almost to where it was before the pandemic began. Read more

Doctor warning during telemedicine visit on laptop

Is Telemedicine Losing Its Novelty?

Considering the eagerness with which the health care industry embraced telemedicine as COVID-19 started circling the world, it may seem surprising that lately, physicians have been less enthused than they were earlier in the pandemic. Initially, physicians and industry watchers predicted the widespread adoption of telemedicine as a permanent aspect of primary care. However, a recent report reveals an unexpected trend: In one large health care company, telemedicine usage has been falling steadily since late April. What happened to the early enthusiasm? Read more

Coronavirus telemedicine: a man walking toward opened doorway of opportunity

Building a Coronavirus Telemedicine Program? Read This First!

It’s no surprise that the current COVID-19 pandemic, with its need for social distancing, has spurred renewed interest in alternate health care delivery methods, particularly coronavirus telemedicine. Lawmakers, cognizant of the regulatory and reimbursement obstacles that have plagued the telemedicine industry for years, have acted quickly to ease such restrictions to enable patients to receive medical care without leaving their homes. Now, healthcare providers are suddenly finding themselves either learning how to use telemedicine or expanding existing programs to center more heavily on the telemedicine modality. However, providers who value long-term satisfaction and usability would be wise to pause to consider several factors as they design their coronavirus telemedicine initiatives. Some of the most critical factors are highlighted below. Read more

Handwashing complements telemedicine for coronavirus by reducing the spread of illness

Telemedicine for Coronavirus Cleared for Widespread Use

Telemedicine’s moment to shine has arrived. Amidst rising national concern regarding the spread of coronavirus COVID-19—on top of the annual influenza cycle—Congress has passed an emergency spending bill that expands Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine during a public health emergency by loosening restrictions on the permissible locations for patients during the consultation. Read more

Doctor holding smartphone for electronic prescription per telemedicine prescribing laws

Telemedicine Prescribing Laws Inch Forward

More than a decade after the passage of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, the US Drug Enforcement Agency is finally taking steps to fulfill a task assigned by the legislation: the creation of a special registration process for telemedicine prescribing laws by which healthcare providers can apply for authorization to prescribe controlled substances to new patients they have never met in the office, instead examining them only via the “practice of telemedicine.” This long-overdue measure has been welcomed by organizations including the American Telemedicine Association and the Center for Telehealth & e-Health Law, who have long been lobbying the DEA to take action. Read more

cartoon of Freud psychoanalyzing brain on couch since telemental health isn't available yet

Telemental Health Crosses State Lines

Over the last several years, the growth of the telemedicine industry and its elimination of geographic barriers have highlighted the impracticality of requiring medical care providers to be licensed in every single state in which their patients live. To overcome this expensive and time-consuming administrative work, several states have banded together to create licensure compacts in which the participating states recognize each other’s medical licenses as being valid within their borders. Perhaps the most well-known agreement is the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) for physicians, although other types of medical providers have formed interstate bonds as well. Now, telemental health is about to receive a boost in popularity: The Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT) is almost ready to go live. Read more

legal issues in medicine depicted by stethoscope and gavel on book

Top Tips to Avoid Legal Issues in Telemedicine

Nearly 70 percent of physicians are willing to use telemedicine, according to a recent survey, but what the survey didn’t measure is what percentage are concerned about legal issues in telemedicine. Considering the broad variance in telemedicine regulations across the nation, the concern is certainly a valid one. Here are some areas in which newly-minted telemedicine physicians should tread carefully to avoid running afoul of the law. Read more

Doctor at desk talking to patient with telemedicine solutions

Will Telemedicine Solutions Ease Physician Shortage?

For the next 20 years, three million baby boomers will reach retirement—each year, according to Advisory Board. Today, one in five people already lives in an area with a shortage of primary care physicians, and some hospitals are already experiencing a shortage of specialists; what will happen when we keep adding more patients than doctors to the healthcare system? Many experts, such as the Association of American Medical Colleges, predict that the shortage will only worsen. In a proactive effort to alleviate the problem and increase patients’ access to physicians, some hospitals and health systems have begun encouraging their patients to use telemedicine solutions instead of traveling to the doctor’s office, thus enabling physicians to see more patients more efficiently. Read more

Man jumping on BMX bike over precipice in mountains at sunset.

Four Tips for Minimizing Telemedicine Risks

As we’ve all heard by now, the advantages of telemedicine are numerous: improved patient outcomes, greater quality of care, and cost efficiencies, to name a few. However, with these gains comes an element of uncertainty. As telemedicine continues to challenge long-held boundaries, legal telemedicine risks are coming to light—such as patient confidentiality, security, and professional licensure portability. As health care providers add telemedicine services to their practices, several factors should be addressed to avoid running afoul of legal considerations. Read more