In many states, current regulations require that any provider and patient doing a telemedicine visit have a pre-existing relationship. Usually this means that the provider and patient need to have had at least one in-person visit. This regulation is slowly changing as more companies like Teladoc and DoctoronDemand seek to connect patients with a random, on-call doctor for immediate care.
The term ‘telehealth’ is gaining popularity among medical professionals, compared to the original term, ‘telemedicine.’ [4] Some medical professionals use the names interchangeably. However, telemedicine is a term that may apply to the application of any technology in the clinical setting, while telehealth more distinctly describes the delivery of services to patients. Telemedicine is a familiar term, but telehealth more appropriately describes the latest trends in using technology to deliver treatments to patients. Depending on the organization, service providers may use a different definitions of telehealth. Although the basic premise remains similar, the context may change according to factors such as organizational objectives, and the needs of the patient population being served. Medical experts do agree on one point; telehealth is an innovative way of engaging patients, and it is highly beneficial for both providers and patients.
The term ‘telehealth’ is gaining popularity among medical professionals, compared to the original term, ‘telemedicine.’ [4] Some medical professionals use the names interchangeably. However, telemedicine is a term that may apply to the application of any technology in the clinical setting, while telehealth more distinctly describes the delivery of services to patients. Telemedicine is a familiar term, but telehealth more appropriately describes the latest trends in using technology to deliver treatments to patients. Depending on the organization, service providers may use a different definitions of telehealth. Although the basic premise remains similar, the context may change according to factors such as organizational objectives, and the needs of the patient population being served. Medical experts do agree on one point; telehealth is an innovative way of engaging patients, and it is highly beneficial for both providers and patients.
When the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), began plans to send astronauts into space, the need for Telemedicine became clear. In order to monitor their astronauts in space, telemedicine capabilities were built into the spacecraft as well as the first spacesuits.[5][8] Additionally, during this period, telehealth and Telemedicine were promoted in different countries especially the United States and Canada.[5]
Reimbursement for Medicaid covered services, including those with telemedicine applications, must satisfy federal requirements of efficiency, economy and quality of care. States are encouraged to use the flexibility inherent in federal law to create innovative payment methodologies for services that incorporate telemedicine technology. For example, states may reimburse the physician or other licensed practitioner at the distant site and reimburse a facility fee to the originating site. States can also reimburse any additional costs such as technical support, transmission charges, and equipment. These add-on costs can be incorporated into the fee-for-service rates or separately reimbursed as an administrative cost by the state. If they are separately billed and reimbursed, the costs must be linked to a covered Medicaid service.
Based on over 600 studies, the AMA has put together a comprehensive set of guidelines for professionals using telemedicine in primary and urgent care – a field that is quickly adopting telemedicine to expand basic healthcare access. Here are some of the basic protocols and rules a primary care or urgent care facility should put into place when starting their telemedicine program.
1. Request a visit with a doctor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Requests can be made by web, phone, or mobile app. Want to see the doctor with whom you’re speaking? Choose “video” as the method for your visit. Feeling camera shy? Choose “phone.” Got a busy schedule? Select a time that’s best for you by choosing “schedule” instead of “as soon as possible.”

Today the telemedicine field is changing faster than ever before. As technology advances at exponential levels, so does the widespread affordability and accessibility to basic telemedicine tools. For example, not only do we now have the technology for live video telemedicine, but much of the U.S. population has experience using online videochat apps (like Skype or Facetime), and access to a computer or mobile device to use them.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TV celebrity Dr. Phil McGraw discussed the Doctor On Demand app, which connects any patient with a Board Certified physician or pediatrician via video chat in just two minutes. To use Doctor On Demand, patients download the app, give some background on their medical history, enter information on what’s wrong, and the app connects them to a health care provider from there. The service is currently available in 47 US states (excluding Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska) and can be accessed through the iPhone, iPad, Android, and on the web. Doctor on Demand’s hours of operation are 7 am to 11 pm local time (we're hoping it will one day become available 24 hours a day). A 15-minute session costs $40, which is a bit higher than the average co-pay many patients have for in-office visits, and the program currently does not accept health insurance. From the app demo at CES and from Kelly’s experience (more on that below), the Doctor On Demand app is quite sleek and the video chat is as easy to use as Facetime or Skype. Patients can find pharmacists and manage their prescriptions right from their smartphone – no more hard-to-read prescriptions or the potential to lose the prescription slip. Dr. Phil characterized the service as a “game-changer” and proposed that it could address 17 of the top 20 reasons people see a doctor (the flu, skin conditions, etc.) – these day-to-day conditions seem to be a key focus of Docotor on Demand, as opposed to more chronic conditions like full-time diabetes management. To learn more about Doctor on Demand’s policies and most frequently asked questions, please see this page.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions at ATA. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most difficult to answer.  Estimates on the market size for telemedicine vary widely, depending on each analyst's precise definition of telemedicine. While they can't agree on a single number, one area where all research firms concur is that the telemedicine market is growing rapidly.
In 1964, the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute began using television links to form two-way communication with the Norfolk State Hospital which was 112 miles away for the education and consultation purposes between clinicians in the two locations.[9] The Logan International Airport in Boston established in-house medical stations in 1967. These stations were linked to Massachusetts General Hospital. Clinicians at the hospital would provide consultation services to patients who were at the airport. Consultations were achieved through microwave audio as well as video links.[5][9]

The downsides of telemedicine include the cost of telecommunication and data management equipment and of technical training for medical personnel who will employ it. Virtual medical treatment also entails potentially decreased human interaction between medical professionals and patients, an increased risk of error when medical services are delivered in the absence of a registered professional, and an increased risk that protected health information may be compromised through electronic storage and transmission.[8] There is also a concern that telemedicine may actually decrease time efficiency due to the difficulties of assessing and treating patients through virtual interactions; for example, it has been estimated that a teledermatology consultation can take up to thirty minutes, whereas fifteen minutes is typical for a traditional consultation.[9] Additionally, potentially poor quality of transmitted records, such as images or patient progress reports, and decreased access to relevant clinical information are quality assurance risks that can compromise the quality and continuity of patient care for the reporting doctor.[10] Other obstacles to the implementation of telemedicine include unclear legal regulation for some telemedical practices and difficulty claiming reimbursement from insurers or government programs in some fields.[11]
“It is less about the technology as it is about delivering medicine via a new medium,” Clement explained. “Luckily, the C-suite is accustomed now to teleconferencing, so they have a feel for the benefits, as well as some of the communication struggles that come with being audio-visual from remote locations. Much like teleconferencing, there are situations where telemedicine will fit and others where it will not: It can’t be looked upon as a silver bullet.”
In the future, experts say, internet-­connected sensors—such as blood pressure monitors—could be paired with e-visits to help people manage chronic conditions from home. So far, such devices aren't widely used. But the list of conditions that patients and doctors can manage remotely is “ever expanding,” says Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute.
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