Telemedicine Is Transforming How Small Medical Practices Provide Care, Reducing Costs
Regulatory Barriers Are Keeping Telemedicine From Reaching Its Full Potential
The Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, under the chairmanship of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), today conducted a hearing to examine how small medical practices are using telemedicine to expand their reach and grow their businesses.
Telemedicine usually refers to medical diagnoses and patient care when the provider and patient are separated by distance, but able to interact through technology. For example, a new mobile health small business launched a new product yesterday that allows people to see a doctor virtually via video conference on a smartphone. According to a recent study, the number of households using video consultations for medical care will grow from 900,000 in 2013 to 22.6 million in 2018.
“Over the past few years, there has been a lot of debate about reforming America’s health care system,” said Chairman Collins. “One of the best ways to reform health care and reduce costs is to allow the private sector to improve the industry through innovation and increased access. Telemedicine is the type of tool that does this, and we should fully embrace it. Some physicians and telemedicine advocates are concerned that regulatory barriers will keep this cost-saving and useful technology from reaching its full potential. Washington must work with the medical community to make sure technological advances, like telemedicine, are able to thrive so that they improve the quality and affordability of care.”
Materials from the hearing are available on the Committee’s website HERE.
Dr. Karen Rheuban, Senior Associate Dean for CME and External Affairs Director at the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth in Charlottesville, VA said, “Telehealth is an essential tool to address the significant challenges of access to high quality care for both acute and chronic disease management, to mitigate workforce shortages, improve population health and lower cost of care. There are many opportunities for small practices to integrate telehealth models into every-day practice. However, even for large healthcare systems, managing and navigating the complex legal and regulatory environment which impacts the practice of healthcare using telehealth tools can be challenging. For small group practices and solo practitioners, telehealth holds great promise, but the administrative and regulatory challenges can be overwhelming. Thus it is imperative that we create and promulgate policies that foster certainty, transparency, high quality, secure and sustainable solutions that empower patients, providers and payers to adopt 21st Century models of care.”
Dr. Brenda Dintiman, FAAD at Fair Oaks Skin Care Center in Fairfax, VA said, “I have faced several barriers to most effectively providing care via telemedicine. While I face these barriers as a physician, it is ultimately the patients – often the most economically vulnerable – that are the most directly affected. The largest barrier as noted is reimbursement for telehealth services. Without assured reimbursement, providers and patients are unlikely to utilize telehealth. While Virginia law addresses coverage for telehealth services, this does not guarantee access with all private insurance and many states do not have similar policies.”
Ms. Maggie Basgall, Community Development Specialist for Nex-Tech in Lenora, KS said,“Telemedicine already offers health care providers numerous ways to better serve patients, and many more exciting innovations are on the horizon. The desire for advanced telemedicine already exists, but now we must supply – and then sustain – the robust broadband capability, funding, and education to spur increased adoption of the services across the country.”