Report Calls for National Telehealth Policy, Increased Telehealth Use

May 13, 2014 in News

On Monday, the Information Technology Innovation Foundation released a report encouraging Congress to adopt national telehealth regulations and to penalize states that do not make telehealth accessible to providers and patients, The Hill reports.

Support for Telehealth Regulations

ITIF specifically called for the passage of the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2013 (HR 3750), which was introduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) (Al-Faruque, The Hill, 5/12).

The measure would create a federal definition of telehealth and provide guidance for how states can regulate such technology.

It also would require that providers using telehealth:

  • Document the evaluation and treatment given to the patient, and generate a medical record of the visit;
  • Have access to and review the medical history of the individual being treated;
  • Make no assurance to the patient regarding an outcome from the visit, including receiving a prescription; and
  • Offer diagnoses based on an adequate interactive conversation with the patient.

In addition, the bill would require that providers using telehealth technology only issue prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes. The bill would prohibit the prescribing of controlled substances based on telehealth visits (iHealthBeat, 12/20/13).

If the bill is signed into law, ITIF suggests that fines be imposed on states that do not adopt the new policies within a “reasonable period of time” (The Hill, 5/12).

Support for Increased Telehealth Use

The report supports the increased use of telehealth technology, noting that the adoption of such technology has been “disappointingly slow.”

It stated, “Despite the widespread availability of the necessary technologies and significant interest among patients, most individuals in the United States do not have routine access to telehealth services because of state and federal laws prohibiting or curtailing its use.”

The report attributed the slow advancement of telehealth adoption in part to states’ differing reimbursement policies for telehealth services.

For instance, the report noted that “hospitals are more likely to adopt telehealth if they are in states requiring private payers to reimburse telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services” (Kim, “TechnoCRAT,” Roll Call, 5/12).

Recommendations

The report recommended that lawmakers:

  • Compile a standard definition for telehealth;
  • Develop technology-neutral insurance payment policies;
  • Pass legislation that would fund research to improve the quality and decrease the cost of telehealth programs; and
  • Promote interoperability among state prescription drug monitoring programs (“TechnoCRAT,” Roll Call, 5/12).
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