This type of telemedicine allows providers to share patient information with a practitioner in another location. For example, a primary care physician can now share patient records and medical data with a specialist without being in the same room. Systems can transmit information across vast distances and different systems (sometimes) so one physician can know what another has already done. This leads to less duplicate testing and fewer instances of poor medication management.
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.
But as the National Policy Telehealth Resource Center notes, “Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is more complex than simply using products that claim to be ‘HIPAA-compliant.” Not only does the telemedicine platform need to be compliant, all providers, patients, and staff using the tool need to ensure they are in compliance with HIPAA. A telemedicine software vendor, for instance, not only needs to build a secure product, but also ensure their company is operating in accordance with HIPAA.
It’s also important to note that many doctors using telemedicine will charge the patient a convenience fee, ranging from $35 – $125 per visit. This fee is direct from the patient and is on top of (or in place of) any reimbursement through a payer. While that means patients are paying out-of-pocket, many of eVisit’s clients have found patients don’t mind, and in fact are happy to pay the additional fee for the convenience.
More widespread use and success of telehealth applications might spur the resolution of these reimbursement issues. CVS has been providing clinical services via telehealth since 2015. According to their study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 95 percent of patients “were highly satisfied with the quality of care they received, the ease with which telehealth technology was integrated into the visit, and the timeliness and convenience of their care.” If CVS’s merger with Aetna is finalized, increased competition may motivate other payers to find ways to offer telehealth services and, by extension, levels of reimbursement.
Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 governs telemedicine in certain situations under Medicare, telemedicine regulation for the most part falls to the states. As of spring 2018, 49 states and Washington, D.C., provide reimbursement via Medicaid for some version of live video care, according to the Center for Connected Health Policy, a group that promotes telemedicine.
Teladoc's private funding rounds included $9 million in December 2009, $4 million in January 2011, $18.6 million in September 2011, $15 million in September 2013, and $50 million in September 2014. On April 29, 2015, the company submitted preliminary confidential IPO paperwork, and on May 29, 2015 it publicly filed for its IPO. On July 1, 2015, the company went public with a New York Stock Exchange-listed IPO at $19 per share, which gave the company a market capitalization of $758 million and an enterprise value of $620 million. The initial response to the IPO was good: shares surged 50% on the opening day to close at $28.50, after opening at $29.90 and trading as high as $31.90.
As of 2015, Teladoc was the only telemedicine company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In December 2016, the American Hospital Association exclusively endorsed Teladoc's telehealth technology platform. Teladoc now operates its full suite of services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by web, phone, or mobile app in 48 of the 50 states.
In April 2012, a Manchester-based Video CBT pilot project was launched to provide live video therapy sessions for those with depression, anxiety, and stress related conditions called InstantCBT The site supported at launch a variety of video platforms (including Skype, GChat, Yahoo, MSN as well as bespoke) and was aimed at lowering the waiting times for mental health patients. This is a Commercial, For-Profit business.
One of the key advantages of telemedicine is the ability to provide healthcare to a patient, no matter the patient or provider’s location. However, since providers are licensed to practice in a specific state, they are only legally allowed to offer telemedicine services to patients in the same state. Currently, 49 state medical boards require physicians practicing telemedicine to be licensed in the state where the patient is located.
Distance Learning: The use of audio and video technologies allows students to attend training sessions classes that are conducted from a remote location. Usually distance learning systems are interactive. They are a useful tool for delivering education and training to students that are widely dispersed, or in some cases where an instructor is unable to travel to the site where the students are located.
Patient Exam Cameras – These cameras are used to examine the patient’s overall condition. The different types of patient exam cameras are handheld cameras, camcorders, gooseneck cameras and those which may be placed above the set-top units. Analog and digital cameras are available and the ones that should be used depend on the connection to the set-top unit.
Teladoc does not guarantee prescriptions. It is up to the doctor to recommend the best treatment. Teladoc doctors do not issue prescriptions for substances controlled by the DEA, non-therapeutic, and/or certain other drugs which may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. Also, non-therapeutic drugs such as Viagra and Cialis are not prescribed by Teladoc doctors.
While telemedicine is the older of the two phrases, telehealth is rapidly gaining acceptance, in large part because of the evolution of the healthcare landscape. The rise of consumer-directed healthcare and the shift from fee-based care to quality- and outcomes-based care has put more of an emphasis on health and wellness and care management. And in that atmosphere, telehealth fits the mold.
All the guidelines and restrictions we’ve listed above are for billing telemedicine through traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans under a commercial payer have complete flexibility to cover telemedicine however they want! This means, Advantage plans may cover telemedicine for your patient and not have any of those restrictions on what qualifies as an eligible originating site. Call the payer and ask what they’ll cover and what their telemedicine guidelines are.
On July 7th, 2015, House representatives introduced the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015. If passed, the bill will expand what telemedicine services Medicare will cover and get rid of many limitations (like the requirements for what qualifies as an “originating site“). Legislation like this one could have a huge impact on coverage for remote patient monitoring and other telemedicine services delivered to the patient in their own home.
Telemedicine has come a long way and there’s still so much room for growth. Currently, telemedicine is used to conference specialists on important appointments when patients have no other access, to provide diagnosis and prescriptions to remote areas where access to a physician isn’t always possible, and even to assist in invasive surgeries when a high caliber surgeon can’t reach a patient in time.
Disease Management: A coordinated and continuous health process for the purposes of managing and improving the health status of a specifically defined population of patients over the complete course of the disease (e.g., DM, CHF). The targeted patient populations are high-cost, high-risk patients that have chronic conditions that require appropriate care in order to be maintained properly.
Telepsychiatry, another aspect of telemedicine, also utilizes videoconferencing for patients residing in underserved areas to access psychiatric services. It offers wide range of services to the patients and providers, such as consultation between the psychiatrists, educational clinical programs, diagnosis and assessment, medication therapy management, and routine follow-up meetings. Most telepsychiatry is undertaken in real time (synchronous) although in recent years research at UC Davis has developed and validated the process of asynchronous telepsychiatry. Recent reviews of the literature by Hilty et al. in 2013, and by Yellowlees et al. in 2015 confirmed that telepsychiatry is as effective as in-person psychiatric consultations for diagnostic assessment, is at least as good for the treatment of disorders such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder, and may be better than in-person treatment in some groups of patients, notably children, veterans and individuals with agoraphobia.
The combination of sustained growth, the advent of the internet and the increasing adoption of ICT in traditional methods of care spurred the revival or "renaissance" of telehealth. The diffusion of portable devices like laptops and mobile devices in everyday life made ideas surrounding telehealth more plausible. Telehealth is no longer bound within the realms of telemedicine but has expanded itself to promotion, prevention and education.
Telepathology is the practice of pathology at a distance. It uses telecommunications technology to facilitate the transfer of image-rich pathology data between distant locations for the purposes of diagnosis, education, and research. Performance of telepathology requires that a pathologist selects the video images for analysis and the rendering diagnoses. The use of "television microscopy", the forerunner of telepathology, did not require that a pathologist have physical or virtual "hands-on" involvement is the selection of microscopic fields-of-view for analysis and diagnosis.
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. Additionally, during this period, telehealth and Telemedicine were promoted in different countries especially the United States and Canada.
In-office visits and overnight stays at healthcare facilities can be difficult for individuals in poor health. Telehealth services reduce hospital readmission rates by enabling doctors to monitor patients outside the office. Because of this, many hospitals have already started to include some form of remote monitoring as part of their post-discharge plans. By equipping patients with wearable devices or other wireless technologies, clinicians can monitor vital signs and symptoms and adjust care as needed without an in-office visit. Alignment Healthcare, for example, developed a program to remotely monitor chronically ill and recently discharged patients and reduce 30-day readmission rates. Enrollees were given a package of Bluetooth-enabled monitoring equipment, including a Samsung tablet, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and scale.
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. 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. 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. 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.
We consider ourselves part of YOUR healthcare team. Our physicians do not take over your patients’ care but serve as a knowledgeable consultant for the attending physician. Through HD video conferencing, our team can speak with patients and assess their condition. Our services can also help your facility meet requirements for CMS and Joint Commission certifications.
“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.”
Each online video chat appointment with a doctor costs patients $40; doctors get $30 of that, with the company taking a $10 cut. Doctors can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication, but the app and website are not recommended for any patient experiencing a potentially life-threatening emergency medical condition. Doctors also cannot use it to prescribe medications like sedatives and narcotics.