What States Require Video For Telemedicine?

Author: Gina Cunsolo

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What States Require Video for Telemedicine? 

 

Telemedicine was on the rise well before COVID-19, but the pandemic cemented its place in health care. Instead of making a trip to the doctor’s office, telemedicine allowed those seeking treatment to have an appointment with a healthcare professional via a computer, mobile device, interactive kiosk, or other electronic tools.

 

Video For Telemedicine - State Requirements 

 

The Institute for Digital Health & Innovation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences defines telehealth, or telemedicine, as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.” Along with addressing concerns about social distancing and the spread of COVID, telemedicine offers access to health care services to those who live in rural areas far from a doctor’s office, disabled individuals who may have difficulty leaving their homes, residents of nursing homes, or those who lack transportation.

 

An article on the medical news website MedicalXpress.com points out that telehealth visits increased by 40% during the first half of 2020 and continue to be 30% higher than before the pandemic. While 43% of health centers used telehealth before the pandemic, 98% did so as the crisis spread.

 

But with telemedicine still relatively new to health care, rules about the implementation of telemedicine differ among states. In addition, temporary regulations and waivers were enacted during the pandemic. These regulations affect issues, including whether telehealth sessions are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private payer insurance and whether the doctor can prescribe medications via telehealth and whether the doctor must be licensed in the state where the patient resides.

 

For example, a doctor can prescribe medications in some states simply by looking at a patient’s records. In others, a phone call between doctor and patient will suffice, while in still others, some form of video contact is required.

 

The States The Require Video for Telehealth

 

According to telehealth provider RexMD, these are the states that currently require video for telehealth sessions:

 
  • Arkansas

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kentucky

  • New Mexico

  • North Carolina

  • Oklahoma

  • Utah

  • Wisconsin

 

How that list will change in the future remains to be seen. Although some telehealth rules were enacted temporarily to help communities cope with the pandemic, many of those rules will likely become permanent. As patients become more comfortable with the concept of receiving a virtual “house call” from their doctor, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to give up that convenience. The Center for Connected Health Policy estimates that more than 1,000 telehealth bills are pending in state legislatures. The bulk of those would allow more services to be delivered virtually or require public or private insurers to cover them.

 

On the other hand, hastily implemented regulations often have unforeseen consequences. As states consider keeping temporary rules in place, they may seek to fine-tune them as their impact becomes clear. The chances are that more states will require a video component to any telehealth session.

 

Video Telehealth Is Set To Expand

 

The expansion of video in telehealth will require other issues to be addressed. Elderly patients, typically the ones who benefit the most from the convenience of telehealth, are also the group least likely to have a smartphone for telehealth sessions. Remote areas may not have the required broadband Internet for video sessions, and some patients may need assistance setting up the sessions. Although the requirements for video in telehealth sessions are likely to expand, these and other factors will need to be overcome in the process.

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