Last Wednesday in Tallahassee, Florida, a senate committee unanimously approved a bill on telehealth, focused on permitting doctors and healthcare providers using telehealth technology to provide healthcare directly to patients. Florida Senators Aaron Bean and Fernandina Beach worked tirelessly on five drafts of the bill, and in its success, it has earned the joke “fifth time’s the charm!” This appears to be true for the statewide legislation on telehealth, opening up doors for the up-and-coming healthcare industry.
The bill was created by a committee of 15 Florida senators who worked with a Telehealth Advisory Council that had made many recommendations toward the legislation. A majority of these recommendations have been implemented into the legislation, like the requirement that health-care practitioners providing virtual care must be licensed. Intuitive changes like these as well as creating legislation with license requirements and overall regulations allows the telemedicine field to become a more legitimate and trustworthy healthcare sector.
This new telehealth measure bans using telemedicine platforms as a median to prescribe controlled substances for treating chronic pain, and will not allow patients to be certified for medical marijuana treatment virtually. These changes will undoubtedly be a benefit to many speculators of telemedicine who worry that increasing access to care will also increase access to, and abuse of, controlled substances.
Lastly, the bill requires equal insurance coverage and provider reimbursements for both in-person care as well as virtual care through telehealth. This is another win for the telehealth community, as a huge concern is whether insurance companies will cover virtual visits and remote care options. This has been a deterrent for both providers and patients in the past and the new bill will help increase healthcare access throughout Florida State.
While no two states are alike when it comes to telehealth legislation, many are working with legislation that will provide equal coverage for both in person and virtual visits. 2018 continues to prove to be a year of success for telehealth and we at Clocktree are excited for what is to come!
The opioid crisis in America is hurting communities all around the country. Many people in need of treatment for opioid addiction live in rural areas without dedicated treatment centers. This lack of access in rural areas means the residents are not receiving treatment. So what can telemedicine to do help the opioid crisis?
On October 26, 2017, The White Housedeclared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and the administration acknowledged a need to expand treatment throughout rural areas specifically by making telemedicine more accessible. Jamey Lister from US News wrote an article on the possibilities of using telehealth technology to help reach rural areas suffering from the opioid crisis. Lister states that in 2015, people living in rural areas are four times more likely to die from an overdose than those living in the same area in 1999. With this increased OD rate, there is a need for opioid treatment programs that help patients stop abusing opioids and get on the road to long term recovery.
With a limited number of care clinics that provide such treatment programs there is a need to find alternative options to provide people access to care. Access to telehealth services has enabled many patients to have the ability to discuss medication issues etc. One concern is that with videoconferencing, controlled substances cannot be prescribed through telehealth services without having an initial in person assessment.
There are some exceptions; such as allowing a person to videoconference their care provider from an affiliated clinic with clinic personal there with them. The emergency declaration may increase flexibility with such issues. All in all there is a need to provide treatment options to these rural areas as many are some of the hardest hit communities in the country.
Without increased care options there will continue to be horrendous death rates in these communities and a continuous loss of loved ones.
Telehealth services can help in more ways than just direct substance treatment options. A major part of recovery is therapy and counseling. Lacking access to care is a detrimental factor for these communities and increased care options could be a bright light during this dark time.
2017 was a ground breaking year for the world of telehealth. More than 60% of all healthcare institutions in the US have implemented telehealth technology into their care systems. Access to online care has never been better. The ability to receive care remotely bridges large gaps in our healthcare system, and makes it easier for patients to be in contact with their providers.
Telehealth has helped provide access to people who have been unable to travel to care clinics, specifically during hurricane Irma Florida Hospital opened up telehealth access (as mentioned in our previous blog post) to people around the state who were unable to reach a physician but were in need of help. Online video evaluations helped providers respond to the people left stranded by the hurricane, and they were able to provide medical advice for injuries as well as other basic medical questions people around the state had.
A large variety of healthcare providers have implemented telehealth into their practices during 2017, from psychiatrists to dermatologists many providers are reaping the benefits of online care options. Although a large number of healthcare institutions provide online care platforms, there is still a hugely underserved population who lack access to healthcare.
2017 continued the forward movement of the telehealth sector, and 2018 is expected to be another year of great progress. More and more insurance companies are covering telehealth services and as the year moves forward a greater number of people will have easier access to healthcare. 2017 was a good year for telehealth, and we at Clocktree are excited to see what 2018 will bring.
Telehealth coverage and usage is continuing to make strides forward. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that currently 60% of all healthcare institutions and about 45% of all hospitals are using telehealth in one way or another. This increased usage correlates with the goal of improving patient care, improving the health of the overall population, reducing healthcare costs and the physician shortage the US is currently facing.
A large number of healthcare providers have reported using telehealth services to bridge the gaps in health care. Geisinger Health System, the Veterans Health Administration, Partners HealthCare and many more have implemented telehealthcare into their care systems. Telehealthcare has helped deal with provider shortages as well as improve the patient’s overall experience. This form of care allows for extended care hours, reduces patient travel time and improves accessibility to healthcare.
Currently 31 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place which require commercial health insurers to provide equal coverage for in-person and telehealth services. 49 states cover telemental health services, and 36 cover various other telehealth services. Legislation is continuing to support the implementation of telehealth which could be a saving grace for the US healthcare system.
Legislators are not the only ones jumping onto this telehealth bandwagon. The National Business Group on Health predicts that almost all employers with cover telehealth services by 2020. Now as this field continues to grow questions come up on the effectiveness of telehealthcare vs in person visits, and how will this be integrated into the clinical workflow?
These questions are yet to be fully answered, however the evidence provided so far has shown telehealth has been largely effective. With the emergence of this field there will need to be continued research and innovation in order to successfully integrate telehealth into the care system.
With that said telehealth continues to be a promising tool for the future of healthcare. If you would like to learn more about the world of telehealth and how you can join this community check out our website and other blog posts.