Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation and a host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.
Benefits: Using telemedicine as an alternative to in-person visits has a host of benefits for patients
•Less time away from work
•No travel expenses or time
•Less interference with child or elder care responsibilities
•No exposure to other potentially contagious patients
Privacy and Security
Because patient data will be transmitted when telemedicine is used, it is subject to HIPAA regulations. Consumer video services like Skype and Facetime do not meet this standard. In order to maintain compliance, providers must choose technology solutions that use data encryption to protect patient data.
How common is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is an important and quickly growing component of healthcare delievery in the United States. There are currently about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the US. In 2011 alone the Veterans Health Administration delivered over 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine. More than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.
Is telemedicine safe?
Yes. When used under the right conditions and for appropriate cases, telemedicine has been shown to be as safe and effective as in-person care. Of course, not every condition is conducive to treatment via video visits, so providers must use good judgement when leveraging this channel for healthcare delivery.
Does Medicare or Medicaid pay for telemedicine?
For Medicare patients, national telehealth policy sets many restrictions on patient location, services provided over telemedicine and facilities at which patients receive these services. However, the Medicare Chronic Care Management Program is a national policy that set no such restrictions on telemedicine practiced by Medical Doctors (MD). Medicaid reimbursement varies from state to state, resulting in a patchwork of different policies and reimbursement requirements. Insurance companies do NOT pay for Oriental medicine telemedicine consult.
How difficult is telemedicine technology to use?
In order to be effective, telemedicine technologies must be easy to use for both patients and providers. The best solutions are easy for medical offices to set up and deploy and as easy for patients as the mobile device applications they use every day.