4 reasons telemedicine could grow

Increased electronic health record use is leading to more efficient communication between payers and providers, but a national group supporting telemedicine has bigger plans: Making the technology part of healthcare reform.

Use of electronic medical records and other health information technologies is leading to more efficient communication between payers and providers, and those involved in telemedicine will continue to explore new ways the two parties can support one another.

So says the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), a nonprofit professional organization whose members include individual health information technologists and physicians and healthcare institutions, communications companies, and other organizations.

ATA members gathered recently in San Jose, California, and released a position paper on new developments in telemedicine that should be considered as a component of healthcare reform, including:

Remote access to care should be investigated further, because more than half of patients now want to communicate with their physicians by email, according to a Deloitte survey cited by ATA. Additionally, 68% of patients in the same survey were interested in remote monitoring devices that allow for self-monitoring of healthcare conditions and electronic reporting of results back to a doctor.

Cross-state licensure issues should be explored so that physicians can remotely deliver healthcare anywhere in the country, ATA says. Toward that end, Congress recently passed a law eliminating duplicate state license requirements for doctors treating members of the military and their families.

Innovations for Medicare and Medicaid could save billions of dollars, ATA says. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center is awarding $1 billion in grants for the winners of the Health Care Innovation Challenge, ATA notes, with another $1 billion earmarked for initiatives focused on bundled payments, comprehensive primary care, and the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns program.

Accountable care organizations (ACOs): The CMS Innovation Center named 32 pioneer ACOs in December, and others will be announced through the spring, ATA says. The association estimates that one-fourth of all Americans are now covered under some type of managed care health insurance program.

“Electronic records and IT systems mean little to the healthcare consumer if they aren’t integrated into the delivery of actual patient services,” says Jonathan Linkous, CEO of ATA. The association says it will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that health information technology and telemedicine are combined in a way that best serves patient needs.

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