telemedicinePhysician groups of varying persuasions are calling for improved support for telemedicine. The reason? Many see it as a viable way to address physician shortages and improve patient care.

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) weighed in on the matter:

“While telemedicine cannot replace many of the hands-on skills and in-office assessments neurologists provide, patients in all US states, territories, and the District of Columbia should have access to telemedicine, regardless of location,” said the AAN in a recent policy statement.

Telemedicine (also referred to as teleneurology) is being included more often by neurology practices, usually in emergency stroke care and neurocritical care.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, some states restrict the practice of telemedicine across state borders, while others have varying license requirements.

The American Medical Association put its hat in the ring as well by approving a set of guiding principles at their annual meeting in June. If these standards are met, the AMA believes telemedicine services should be covered and paid for. Standards include:

  • A physician must establish a valid patient-physician relationship before providing telemedicine services. The services should also be consistent with in-person services.
  • Telemedicine providers must abide by state requirements and be licensed in the state where the patient is receiving services.
  • Patients who are seeking telemedicine services should not only have their choice of providers, but also have access to the practitioner’s licensure and board certification qualifications.

“We believe that a patient-physician relationship must be established to ensure proper diagnoses and appropriate follow-up care,” AMA President Robert M. Wah said in a statement. “This new policy establishes a foundation for physicians to utilize telemedicine to help maintain an ongoing relationship with their patients, and as a means to enhance follow-up care, better coordinate care and manage chronic conditions.”

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine, broadly speaking, is the use of any electronic communications by a medical practice with a patient at a remote location as a means of improving the patients clinical health status. This may include any number of applications, including something as simple as a smart phone, two-way video, or other forms of internet technology.

The benefits of telemedicine include reduced cost, improved care, and of course increased access to health care services, particularly for those in rural areas.

Private insurance coverage for telemedicine is on the rise, with 21 states and Washington, D.C., requiring coverage of the service, according to the American Telemedicine Association. They include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.