Are You Ready? The Tele-Med Act of 2015
My parents taught me a few things growing up: open the door for all females (no matter the age); be polite; say “thank you”, “please” and “your welcome” when needed; and never talk religion and politics in social settings. Okay, so some of them I do all the time, and one of them, talking politics in a social setting, I will break today!
Having lived in rural areas for most of my adult life and having family in Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin, rural medical practices are an area near and dear to my heart. My family utilizes telemedicine with the great folks at Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network, and I hope to see a time when one of the fantastic doctors at the Billings Clinic will be able to work on my brother-in-law in Wisconsin when he slips in the boat a gashes his leg, gets a hook stick in his body or any of the dozens of accidents that occur on their family outings to the lakes.
Medicine is medicine, and if you graduated from Med School and are a doctor, you should have every ability to treat your patients wherever they are – on vacation, winter living or hiking. Laws are in place for telemedicine as guidelines and the time has come to allow the people with the skills to do what they need to across state lines without interruption. Doctors are at a shortage, technology is not. Read on and let us know what you think.
Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton may be your best friend if you are looking for someone to champion the telemedicine cause.
“Today, our health care system has changed dramatically, but it’s still too difficult for families in rural America to find quality, affordable health care…Telemedicine can help”. -Hillary Clinton
If you aren’t aware, there is a bill going through congress titled H.R. 3081 or “The Tele-Med Act of 2015” that may just lower existing barriers to implementing telemedicine services, especially across state lines. Now, as it is a federal bill, it really only applies to Medicare currently, but it would set a precedent for other private insurance companies to follow and open up the boundaries that may currently prohibit them from offering services in neighboring states.
There is still a question as to whether this type of bill will be effective given that providers are licensed by their individual states to provide services, and if the provider would be required to be licensed in the state the patient resides in as well in order to legally provide medical care and advice, even by video conference. Breaking down the barriers to payment is one thing; navigating licensure and the 10th Amendment are another.
In any case, there are real shortages of care, especially in rural areas, and there are definite opportunities for healthcare providers to grow their practices by offering telemedicine services. According to a recent study, the services in the shortest supply in these areas seem to be those centered on primary care, mental health, and allied health professions.
The Tele-Med Act also lays out some proposed guidelines to help protect patients, as well as practitioners, form potential misdiagnoses and malpractice concerns.
Given these guidelines, here are 3 steps your practice can take to be ready to provide services given this new legislation passes.
- Electronic Health Records access and storage. Your practice will need to be able to manage and access electronic health records in a way that is compliant with HIPPA regulations on patient privacy. Part of the telemedicine legislation is that the care provider will need to have some prior knowledge of the patient and their pre-existing condition and treatments to responsibly recommend any treatment plan.
- A proper teleconferencing system. Current regulations require that there be real-time, interactive, 2-way communications between doctor and patient, assuring that a proper treatment plan can be arrived at while answering patient concerns and questions. Both Audio and Video capability are required. In order to assure reliable communication, an enterprise quality VTC system should be in place.
- Store and Forward. The ability to capture images ahead of time and forward to a practitioner for evaluation can be a major asset in diagnosis. Recording sessions for future liability reasons is also a huge plus, and again HIPPA compliant encryption to protect patient data is a must for any data stored and/or forwarded.
Hopefully, The Tele-Med Act of 2015 will fulfill its promise to allow service providers to serve patients across state lines without extensive licensure issues. If it does, telemedicine will certainly become an even bigger component to improved medical care. The question is will you be ready to capitalize on it?
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