- For years, telemedicine has been idea without a home, as payers and employers have refused to cover the service. However, things have been changing dramatically, with more than half of employers planning to cover telemedicine consults in 2015 and several large payers getting on board as well.
- One company that has profited particularly from the boom in telemedicine is called Teladoc, which has raised $100 million in venture capital to build its business connecting consumers and physicians on the web. It has a number of competitors as well, including Doctor on Demand, HealthTap, American Well and MDLive, which raised $23.6 million this year from investors, including former Apple CEO John Sculley.
- Observers say pressures brought on by the ACA to cut costs are pushing providers, payers and employers to take advantage of low-cost telemedicine options.
For quite some time, healthcare providers had been looking for opportunities to exploit the possibilities of telemedicine. But as noted above, few of the power players in the industry were willing to pay for such services. What's more, regulatory authorities had thrown up walls that made it difficult to be sure they could offer telemedical consults legally.
However, things have begun to change at a rapid clip. For example, two congressional representatives have recently filed a bill designed to improve ACOs by helping them expand telehealth services. The new legislation would permit ACOs to use remote patient monitoring and store-and-forward technology to deliver images to remote providers.
Another potentially major shift comes from CMS, whose proposed Physician Fee Schedule for 2015 would include changes to cover telehealth services. This is promising for the telemedicine industry as a whole, as commercial payers often follow the lead set by CMS.
That being said, it may take a lot of state-by-state legislative changes to fully support telemedicine practice nationwide, according to the American Telemedicine Association. The ATA says it hopes states will streamline policies to improve medical practice rules, licensure and healthcare quality as well as cutting costs through increased telemedicine adoption.