Telehealth is an increasingly vital component to our health care delivery system, allowing providers to instantly connect with patients remotely and across great distances. According to the American Telemedicine Association, there are 200 telemedicine networks with 3,500 service sites in the US and more than half of hospitals now use some form of telehealth to monitor their patients’ vital signs and ensure that they remain healthy outside of the hospital.
Telehealth is a broad term that encompasses a variety of strategies and methods of delivering non-traditional healthcare through the interactive, electronic exchange of information between a remote patient and provider for the purpose of diagnosis, intervention, or care management. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Live Video: two-way interaction between a person and a provider using audioviosual telecommunication technology
- Store-and-Forward: historic health data that is transmitted to doctors electronically
- Remote Patient Monitoring: use of mobile devices to report test data to physicians
The growing popularity of telehealth is largely due to its close alignment with the Quadruple Aim, a series of four goals that are shaping the healthcare industry. These aims include decreasing cost of care, increasing patient access to quality care, improving patient experience, and enhancing provider experience.
Telehealth is relatively inexpensive and costs only about a third of the price of a doctor’s visit. It alleviates the burden on physicians as they may conveniently address minor symptoms from virtually anywhere and can therefore afford to increase their patient panel sizes. Similarly, patients are able to obtain care much faster, can be more readily reminded to adhere to medical guidelines or prescription schedules, and achieve greater healthcare access from remote locations. As a result, it is unsurprising that most large commercial payers cover telehealth in some form under their health plans.
However, there are significant variations in coverage. The laws surrounding telehealth reimbursement differ by state, so it is important to know where and for what delivery services reimbursement can be achieved. The spread of parity laws, state legislations that require private payers to reimburse telemedicine services the same way they would for in-person medical services, is growing. As of 2018, 35 states and the District of Columbia have passed telemedicine parity laws and four other states have proposed telemedicine parity laws on the table.
The Kinetix Group has compiled an interactive map that details specific telehealth policies by state. It includes which states offer reimbursement for live videos, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), and store-and-forward services. It also highlights whether email, phone, or fax are acceptable forms of telehealth service delivery and whether some sort of informed consent is required in each state. The map is intended to provide a broad visualization of where telehealth is being most readily adopted, how telehealth is being used, and how shifting legislation will shape the future growth of, reimbursement for, and access to telehealth.