Challenges to the expansion of telemedicine include policy-related issues such as coverage and reimbursement, licensure, and safety and security, according to a recent report from the National Conference of State Legislators.
The NCSL recommends that legislators, when working on policy frameworks to benefit telemedicine, should collaborate with stakeholders from within the industry.
In its report, the organization outlines considerations for legislators on each of the issue areas. Some of what they must consider includes:
- Coverage and reimbursement: Key questions include: Which providers can be reimbursed? For which services and telehealth modalities? In addition, states' definitions of telehealth should be explored, and stakeholders, including providers, should be consulted about the telemedicine needs in their state. Currently, barriers to reimbursement hinder telemedicine growth at hospitals, while some providers, such Mayo Clinic, are absorbing the costs.
- Licensure: Providers, payers and consumers must work together on legislation related to licensure, the report says. That includes looking at gaps in care that can be filled by telehealth, ability for providers to practice across state lines and use of language that can apply to all provider types. There's a roster of states that support allowing telehealth use across state lines, and the Federation of State Medical Board is working to make legislation on telehealth licensure a reality.
- Safety and security: Legislators must balance constraints put on telehealth with the need for security of patient information. In addition, they should examine how data from telehealth tools is collected.
Addressing such barriers will be continually important to allow telemedicine to reach its full potiential, the report notes. In fact, Grand View Research Inc. is forecasting that the market will reach $2.8 billion by 2022, with rising consumer demand for the tools playing a large part in that growth.