Telemedicine on the Rise: Five Factors Driving Telehealth Growth in 2017 – and Beyond

Here are five critical events and developments from the past year that have accelerated — and will continue to promote — the growth of telehealth programs:

VETS Act of 2017: The House passed this bill (H.R. 2123, Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017) to permit physicians and other providers who meet the definition of “covered health care professionals” to administer services via telehealth with a single medical license, regardless of where the physician or patient resides. The legislation also requires the VA Secretary to deliver a report to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs outlining the overarching effectiveness of telehealth services.

Expended Reimbursement: The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) final rule increases access to Medicare telehealth services, especially for patients in rural or underserved areas, by paying for more such consults and making it easier for providers to bill for them.

Disaster Relief: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma shined a spotlight on the value of telehealth during a natural disaster.

Employer Engagement: Employer-based telemedicine programs overall are growing. An August 2017 survey from the National Business Group on Health, found that telehealth offerings by employers are nearly universal, and employees who take advantage of these programs require fewer visits to emergency rooms, urgent care clinics and physicians’ offices.

 State Buy-In: Numerous state laws have also addressed telemedicine issues. Texas passed a bill to improve patient outcomes by using telemedicine technology to bring trauma surgeons into the back of ambulances to assess and direct treatment. Twenty-two state Medicaid programs provide reimbursement for remote patient monitoring, up from three states in August 2016. An increasing number of states are also passing legislation directing health care professional boards to adopt practice standards for its providers who utilize telehealth.

Moving forward, increased demand for self-care and remote monitoring will continue to drive telehealth growth. Likewise, government initiatives will continue to play a large role in paving the way for further expansion of telehealth and telemedicine usage in U.S. health care.

Thanks to JDSUPRA for this informtaion.