Though it hasn’t been long since telemedicine seemed like a dream of science fiction, this new means of connecting providers and patients over the internet has recently begun to see a sizable boom. Telehealth has become increasingly prevalent in modern society, to the point that many insurance providers even recommend scheduling video calls to handle non-urgent issues before ever setting foot in a practice. Some places have even set up permanent telemedicine centers, with such facilities in Mississippi and South Carolina recently being named Telehealth Centers of Excellence.
However, telemedicine is still a long way from being at the same level as in-person visits. Telehealth is strictly regulated, falling under at least 51 state and federal jurisdictions, but the single biggest obstacle to overcome is the paltry reimbursement offered by Medicare for these types of virtual encounters. Thankfully, recent legislation has aimed to fix these issues so that internet healthcare can continue to grow.
Back in September, the Senate adopted the CHRONIC (Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic) Care Act, a new set of bills that would allow several telemedicine improvements, including allowing Medicare Advantage plans to to treat telehealth services as a primary service rather than merely a supplemental benefit. This bill would also allow reimbursement for virtual check-ups of dialysis patients and expand reimbursement for telestroke programs.
Though these improvements are certainly something to celebrate, it is important to remember that they are currently only bills, not laws. Additionally, there are much older statutes that hinder aspects of internet healthcare, such as the federal Ryan-Haight Act, which prevents controlled substances from being electronically prescribed. Even more of a problem is public’s general lack of understanding regarding telemedicine rules and what will be included under their insurance plans. Hopefully as the CHRONIC Care Act moves forward, medical professionals of all areas will be able to spread the word on telemedicine services and bring them the recognition they deserve.