Should virtual patients worry about the side effects of telemedicine?

Although telemedicine is expected to become more prevalent, there are many boundaries this new technology still has to cross. Jay Horton gives more insight in the article below.

Original Post from BenefitsPro.com on June 28, 2016

As technological advancements heighten the accuracy and immediacy of medical consultations conducted remotely, the practice of telemedicine has blossomed alongside.

A Research and Markets study released this week announced the worldwide virtual health care market should jump from last year's estimated $17.9 billion to more than $40 billion by 2021.

Driven by the steadily-increasing capabilities of digital communication, medical professionals are now only a click away from even the furthest reaches of the globe, and the widening access has opened up avenues for diagnoses and treatment once unimaginable.

However, while the availability of far-flung examinations has aided the work of rural practitioners and Doctors Without Borders volunteers, the growth of telemedicine as a practical variant to traditional hospital visits has brought to light thorny regulatory issues and widespread concerns over such programs' inherent limitations.

Although the most technologically adept remote-care facilities may obtain real-time vital signs data and control precision optics able to convey the smallest visual detail, critics fear the physical absence of diagnosticians will necessarily raise the risk that less-obvious symptoms only recognizable through physical presence (clammy skin, eye tremors, sweetened scents) would be ignored.

At this point, telemedicine remains a relatively niche alternative largely undertaken by only those prospective patients within the United States otherwise unable to easily obtain traditional care. A recent HealthMine poll found nearly a third of web-friendly consumers had yet to take advantage of the services primarily because of questions about when they would be most appropriate.

These numbers are widely expected to leap in the coming years, however. As long as telemedicine consults cut the costs of face-to-face visits so dramatically — estimates range from 50 percent to 5000 percent depending upon the nature of the meeting — health insurance companies and the large firms that subsidize the majority of their policies will aggressively urge consumers to choose the cheaper option.

Further complicating matters, state licensing boards have so zealously guarded their dominion that many doctors are forbidden from even offering an opinion when expressly requested by a regular patient vacationing elsewhere.

Literally hundreds of legislative remedies have been introduced on the local level this year as state governments attempt to streamline the process of virtual care. Still, with no clear federal rulings to outline the boundaries of telemedicine, there's an ocean of gray area separating the proposed measures.

The sheer novelty of the practice has also stymied efforts to ensure remote treatment will be reimbursed under Medicaid. While most officials agree some aspects of telemedicine should deserve full compensation, the varying degrees of aid currently in use range from the occasional scan of vital signs to exhaustive video interviews and analyses.

Defending the necessity of immediate legislation last week, Pennsylvania state Rep. Marguerite Quinn stated her case bluntly: "We're trying to put down some basic guidelines here to match policy with technology and make sure we're not thwarting the growth of this in the meantime.”

Read the original article at: http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/28/should-virtual-patients-worry-about-the-side-effec?ref=hp-news&slreturn=1468614391

Source:

Horton, J. (2016, June 28). Should virtual patients worry about the side effects of telemedicine? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/28/should-virtual-patients-worry-about-the-side-effec?ref=hp-news&slreturn=1468614391


Senate bill aims to expand telehealth services for veterans

A bill introduced in the Senate aims to improve health care for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telehealth services.

Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support or VETS Act last week.

The bipartisan legislation would allow Department of Veterans Affairs Physicians to practice across state lines. The physicians would also be able to provide telehealth services, including mental health care, to patients in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

The current law allows the Veterans Administration to waive state licensure requirements only if both the patient and physician are physically at a VA facility. And home telehealth requires both physician and patient to be in the same state. These barriers can deter veterans from seeking medical help.

An announcement of the bill was posted to Sen. Ernst's website with the following comments included.

“The bipartisan Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act moves us one step closer to achieving more affordable, patient-centered health care that our veterans deserve by embracing telehealth services to offer physician care and health treatment beyond the walls of a VA facility,” said Senator Ernst. “Telehealth care is an innovative and important means to meet the wide-ranging needs of veterans in Iowa and nationwide, including the invisible struggles of mental health care.”

“Our nation has a moral obligation to provide the best care for all veterans,” said Senator Hirono. “This legislation would eliminate the added burden of traveling long distances, or even to different states, in order to see a doctor. The VETS Act will build on a VA telemedicine program that is proven to work and removes barriers to accessing care particularly for veterans in rural areas like Hawaii’s Neighbor Islands.”

Click here to read the announcement. 

Click here to view the bill.