Dermatologists want payment for telehealth

No word yet on the outcome of last week's meeting between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the American Academy of Dermatology Association, American Telemedicine Association. But both of the latter two groups are pushing hard for CMS to add payment categories for dermatology consults provided via telehealth.

They've already sent an official letter to CMS asking to have "teledermatology" included under the definition of "physician services," in the Medicare Policy Benefit Manual, which guides what services Medicare will pay for. Their argument: Telemedicine technologies provide a high enough image resolution to allow detailed, assessment of skin conditions.

"With comprehensive information and clear images the dermatologist can often make a diagnosis at a distance, and advise the local doctor how to care for the patient," the groups state. The organizations also pointed to recent studies that show comparable diagnostic accuracy between dermatologists providing diagnoses through telehealth, and those diagnosing patients live in a clinic.

In an interesting case in point: The University of Miami Health System just won a contract to provide teledermatology services to 20,000-plus employees on 41 cruise ships for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. On-board doctors will take pictures of skin problems, then upload them to the University's MedWeb online system, and dermatologists on land will then review the images and make recommendations. It's the latest outreach from UMHS' 15-year development of telehealth technology, hospital officials say.

To learn more:
- read this Health Data Management piece
- read this joint AADA, ATA announcement
- here's the letter (.pdf)
- read about the University of Miami Health System's contract