Telehealth early adopters lead the way as interest grows

Healthcare systems and payers increasingly are looking to learn from early adopters of telehealth to determine how they can effectively implement such services, according to an article at

With increased bandwidth, many of the technical obstacles have been worked out, it says.

To provide effective virtual care, providers must ensure their IT infrastructure can handle the growing traffic reliably and securely, Harry Wang, director of health and mobile product research at Park Associates, wrote recently in Computerworld.

"We've moved to a belief that you have to deliver this to a phone or tablet in order to get the adoption you want," Margaret Laws, the Innovations for the Underserved program director at the California Healthcare Foundation, tells BenefitsPro.

Two issues, however--reimbursement and regulation--remain major barriers.

"Regulatory boards are not caught up, but they are finally coming to the table," Kristi Henderson, Chief Telehealth and Innovation Officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, says in the article. "Some people are even saying now that telehealth is regulated more than personal care."

New York recently became the the 22nd state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass legislation requiring that telehealth visits be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.

At the same time, the American Medical Association is advocating a telehealth policy that emphasizes in-state licensure and the establislishment of a physician-patient relationship prior to the provision of telemedicine services (which can be initiated through a face-to-face visit either in person or via audio/visual connection), while American Telemedicine Association argues that disparate, state-by-state licensures are "artificial barriers" to telemedicine success.

Sixty-four percent of patients recently surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of telehealth company American Well say that they're willing to consider a video visit with their doctor.

And 37 percent of employers plan to implement telehealth coverage by 2015, an increase of nearly 15 percent from 2014, according to a survey from consulting firm Towers Watson. An additional 34 percent say they will add it in 2016 or 2017.

To learn more:
- read the article