According to recent projections, one in every six doctor visits will take place virtually this year, potentially saving over $5 billion globally. A study conducted by Deloitte showed that, in the U.S. and Canada alone, 75 million of 600 million doctor’s appointments will take place electronically, up 400% from just two years ago. Reasons for the escalating use of telehealth stem primarily from the aging population, physician shortages, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
To cope with the increasing number of “e-visits,” several legislative efforts have pushed to amend the laws and regulations that surround telehealth. The Federation of State Medical Boards has acknowledged that several barriers exist that curtail a medical provider’s ability to treat patients electronically. Some states require that the patient and provider must have a pre-existing relationship, while, on a national level, there is no universal “telemedicine license” that enables providers to treat patients across state lines.
Additionally, the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2014 would expand the use of telehealth technology to improve care for elderly patients and patients in underserved areas. The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has advocated for this bill, stating that it:
“includes several provisions that may see significant budget savings and build on recent payment innovations such as accountable care organizations and other incremental budget-sensitive proposals.”
If passed, the following services would be available to Medicare patients via telemedicine:
+ Annual wellness visits
+ Psychotherapy services
+ Continual evaluation and monitoring services for chronic diseases
These efforts should help to raise awareness about the benefits of telehealth treatments, and help patients receive the care they need. And, even though bills like these are simply baby steps, they are undoubtedly steps in the right direction.