ATA: States show mixed progress with telemedicine

Dive Brief:

  • All state Medicaid agencies now cover some form of telemedicine, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).
  • Medicaid coverage of telehealth-based dental services, substance abuse treatment and counseling has increased, though 19 states don’t specify the type of care provider allowed to provide telehealth services as a condition of payment, the group’s latest analysis on gaps in coverage and reimbursement shows. 
  • Still, five states — Idaho, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina — bar the use of cell phone video to facilitate telehealth visits.

Dive Insight:

Telemedicine has helped states increased access to care. Hospitals with telemedicine providers have also been able to reduce readmissions. Of the consumers recently surveyed by American well, 21% would switch primary care providers if they needed to in order to gain access to telehealth services. “Telemedicine services are becoming an expectation of consumers," Sarah Sossong, director of the Center for Telehealth at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Healthcare Dive. Sossong offers seven different steps providers can take to set up a telemedicine practice, starting with aligning the approach to telemedicine adoption with a specific strategy. 

Since the ATA's initial analysis in 2014, 10 states and D.C. have enacted telemedicine parity laws, bringing the total to 24. Telemedicine adoption and usage scores for Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Rhode Island, Utah and West Virginia rose this year, compared with 2015, with Connecticut and Rhode Island going from “F” to “B,” according to the ATA. States rating an “A” include Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. 

The gaps analysis on physician practice standards and licensure shows a growing move away from restrictive requirements that limit telemedicine. For instance, state medical boards are developing regulations and guidance specifically for telemedicine versus in-person medical care. Texas, which found itself embroiled in a lawsuit with telehealth provider Teladoc over a statewide ban on prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine, continues to score worst in the nation—the only state with a composite grade of “C.”

Filed Under: Health IT Policy & Regulation
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