How new laws, guidelines impact the telehealth landscape

Coverage for telemedicine services has been rapidly growing across the U.S., and new laws and rules surrounding the technology will create new opportunities and challenges, Nathaniel Lacktman, an attorney at Foley & Lardner, writes in a post at Health Care Law Today.

For example, the Colorado Medical Board recently adopted new guidelines allowing for patients to undergo telehealth visits without a prior in-person visit; patients also would not be required to be customers at a specific facility to use telemedicine.

And in Texas, a new law goes into effect Sept. 1, that allows school-based telemedicine visits for children covered by Medicaid.

Going forward, providers must pay attention to the language of telemedicine statutes, Lacktman notes. They can be drawn more broadly to include telehealth services, as well as other remote options, such as mHealth, remote patient monitoring and other forms of virtual care. But other regulations could limit coverage to just telemedicine or defining it as licensed physician services.

The various definitions of telehealth or telemedicine written into a state's law or Medicaid program are creating "confusing environments" for end users, according to a recent report by the Center for Connected Health Policy.

Lacktman also says, providers should consider shifting the concept from "reimbursement" for services to "payment" for services, which would allow them to embrace more financial sources.

"Viewing the healthcare industry in terms of 'reimbursement' often means fee-for-service payments from government programs," he says. "That renders 'reimbursement' narrow and limited when compared to the 'revenue' and 'payment' opportunities available."

There's also a different between telehealth coverage and telehealth payment parity. For states without the latter, providers in those locations may receive a lower rate for a telemedicine consult than an in-person visit--making physicians less likely to choose telehealth as an option, Lacktman says.

To learn more:
- read Lacktman's post

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