Senate Bill 780, sponsored by state Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), would define telemedicine and the range of services it encompasses, and it would mandate insurers and health maintenance organizations reimburse for telemedicine services if they pay for the same services when done in-person.
Telemedicine is broadly defined as the use of information technology by health care practitioners for remote diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients.
The bill, which passed in the Pennsylvania Senate this year, will be considered in the House during the legislative session that began in October.
‘Saves Time, Money, and Lives’
Telemedicine can improve access to health care and health outcomes alike, Vogel says.
“Telemedicine can help patients get the care they need,” Vogel said. “It allows for improved access and improved health outcomes in cost- effective ways. Studies show that telemedicine saves time, money, and lives. With the rapidly rising cost of health care, and the fact that it’s nonexistent in some places, the need for telemedicine continues to grow.”
Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says S.B. 780 could have a substantial positive effect on access to health care in Pennsylvania.
“The bill could enact reforms that have the potential to increase health care access to thousands of Keystone State residents,” Glans said. “Telemedicine is transformative in terms of provision of health care services, because remote delivery makes these services much more affordable and available. And the people who benefit most, according to research, are those who suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, irritable bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.”
‘Significant Number’ of Providers
Telemedicine services are expanding across the nation and are extremely popular among those who have tried them, Glans says.
“According to the American Telemedicine Association, there are 200 telemedicine networks with 3,500 service sites in operation across the United States,” Glans said. “That’s a significant number, and it’s only supposed to grow. In fact, a 2017 report said the global telehealth market will reach $78.3 bil- lion by 2025. And patients who’ve used it, love it. Research suggests among telehealth patients who received health care services on a mobile app, 80 percent preferred telehealth over a traditional in-office encounter.”
Telemedicine would grow even more rapidly if governments were to get out of the way of progress, Glans says.
“Government regulation, failures in the current system related to doctor reimbursement, and overly strict licensing standards have effectively become barriers to entry in the health care industry,” Glans said.