Why Telemedicine Is Making Major Progress Nationally

With HR departments starting to embrace the technology, telemedicine is on track to see massive growth in 2016. According to a new American Telemedicine Association report, states are doing better than ever at lowering regulatory barriers to allow the practice.

Are state policies starting to line up in favor of telemedicine as a mainstream, legitimate option for medical consumers?

The American Telemedicine Association  thinks so, particularly when it comes to one form of treatment well suited to the technology: mental health. Recently, ATA released a report showing that just one state received a failing grade for its mental health standards and licensing and that eight other states aced their exam.

This is a major sign of progress, the association notes, because the patchwork of state-level rules for psychologists in particular are difficult to work with. In the report, Gary Capistrant, ATA’s chief policy officer, and State Policy Resource Director Latoya Thomas stated that their assessment generally indicates much support from states.

“Our analysis indicates that decades of evidence-based research highlighting patient adherence to treatment, positive clinical outcomes, and increasing telehealth utilization have been met with overwhelmingly supportive scope of practice policies for psychologists,” they wrote in the report, according to mHealthIntelligence.

The association’s state -policy report was based on a number of regulatory criteria, including psychologist-patient encounter, informed consent, licensure, and out-of-state practice. The states that scored an A on the report card were Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most states and Washington, DC (41 in total), received either B’s or C’s; Colorado was the only one that got an F.

Telemedicine’s Mainstream Push

The report jibes with positive growth in telemedicine in general. As The Wall Street Journal noted last month, ATA estimates that there will be a 30 percent rise in the number of Americans receiving remote medical care in 2016, with telemedicine becoming a common benefit offered by both health providers and large employers. On Monday, Employee Benefit News called telemedicine one of the top employee-benefit trends of 2016.

(And employers are trying novel ways to get people to embrace this kind of healthcare, with some adding telemedicine kiosks.)

This rise in telemedicine’s popularity prompted the American Medical Association to address the practice. At its annual meeting last month, AMA approved a set of ethical guidelines for telemedicine aimed at ensuring that consumers stay safe when they receive virtual medical care.

AMA Board Member Jack Resneck, M.D., a speaker at ATA’s annual meeting, said that the goal of the policy was to ensure their standards remain high no matter the medium.

“Physicians who provide clinical services through telemedicine must recognize the limitation of the relevant technologies and take appropriate steps to overcome those limitations,” Resneck said in a news release. “What matters is that physicians have access to the relevant information they need to make well-grounded recommendations for each patient.”

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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