Telehealth underused in coordinating care for children with special needs

Telehealth can be an ideal option for bringing services to children with special healthcare needs when available providers are scarce or not well distributed, according to a report from the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health.

But while the technology can help provide care coordination for children who have multiple needs for healthcare and support services, families and providers in California are not using telehealth to its full potential, the report states.

It cites reimbursement among the barriers to wider use of telehealth, as well as:

  • Lack of knowledge about telehealth among both families and providers
  • Provider concerns about costs and maintenance of equipment
  • Privacy concerns

The report's authors also recommend:

  • Better education for providers about telehealth's potential to coordinate care for children with chronic medical conditions and to inform families about the options for pursuing telehealth; expanding the list of eligible billing codes for telehealth
  • Making home care eligible for reimbursement
  • Expanding the number of telehealth modalities that are reimbursable, such as store-and-forward and remote patient monitoring applications;
  • Implementing local demonstration projects to identify telehealth best practices

Medi-Cal provides reimbursement for store-and-forward teleophthalmology, teledermatology and teledentistry, however, the technology could greatly benefit children in need of other specialties, such as endocrinology and neurology, the paper says.

A new survey suggests a new generation of physicians is embracing telemedicine. Seventy percent of medical residents responding to a Medscape poll said they would have no issue with videoconferencing with a patient.

Patients in a survey from TechnologyAdvice Research, however, were more leery of telemedicine services.

However, with the various states and the District of Columbia all having their own definitions of telehealth or telemedicine written into law or their Medicaid program, it's creating "confusing environments" for end users, the Center for Connected Health Policy reported recently.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)