State policies for telemedicine impact use of services for Medicare populations

State policies on telemedicine use can have a great impact on adoption of the technology and use for Medicare purposes, according to a report published in Telemedicine and e-Health.

For example, the paper's authors found that after Michigan enacted commercial payer telemedicine parity in 2012, a jump in Medicare telemedicine use was seen just a year later; an increase of 77.5 percent for encounters and 118.4 percent increase in Medicare fees.

Illinois also saw its telemedicine use rise just two years after a Medicaid expansion rule was adopted, according to authors Jonathan D. Neufeld, Ph.D., Charles R. Doarn and Reem Aly. The researchers examined data on Medicare outpatient claims from 2011-2013.

Other states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which did not adopt any new policies for use of the technology, continued to see low levels of telemedicine use, the authors said.

The authors added that the "findings can likely be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that increasing the number of payers or covered services for a telemedicine program increases the program's viability. Programs limited to seeing patients from a single payer are likely to be less scalable or financially sustainable, depending on the total market share of payers with positive telemedicine reimbursement policies," they wrote.

This year may prove to be a big one for telemedicine, especially when it comes to state policies and reimbursement challenges. Bloomberg BNA recently included telehealth in its Top Ten Health Law Issues for 2016.

In addition, more money is being put forward to expand the use of the technology. In mid-December two grants were announced in Maryland and California to grow use of the services.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract