Technology can help overcome the barriers to quality patient care created by distance and reduce the costs of those services, according to Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), the author of legislation aimed at promoting telemedicine in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 780 specifically defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services provided through telecommunications technology to a patient by a healthcare practitioner who is at a different location.” It also establishes guidelines regarding who can provide telemedicine services, and provides clarity regarding insurance company reimbursement for those services.
“Telemedicine is transforming healthcare and it is something our state should embrace and encourage,” Senator Vogel said. “Through the use of telemedicine, specialists and other health care providers are able to expand their reach, helping patients stay in their communities and avoid traveling long distances for specialized care. That will not only save costs, but it could save lives as well.”
Senate Bill 780 provides for the “acquisition, evaluation and transmission of patient information outside of a real-time interaction,” clearing the way for physicians to send medical data like patient histories or X-rays electronically in a technique commonly known as “store and forward.” The bill also specifically includes “remote patient monitoring” under the umbrella of the telemedicine definition.
“Telemedicine can vastly improve the availability of healthcare options for people in rural or urban areas, lower the cost of healthcare, and strengthen the bond between patients and their doctors,” Senator Vogel said. “Telemedicine is especially vital for patients who suffer from chronic illness, seniors who are homebound and families who live in rural areas where they would have to travel very far to receive medical care. With telemedicine, distance is no longer an impediment to receiving health care services from anywhere in Pennsylvania or across the country. We need to make this option available for all Pennsylvanians.” Video
While Senate Bill 780 would make substantial changes in the health care industry, physicians and other health practitioners delivering telemedicine services would still be required to follow standard state licensure and medical practice laws and requirements in Pennsylvania.
“The hospital and health system community is focused on improving the health of all Pennsylvanians. The introduction of this legislation is a major step forward for patients,” said Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) President and CEO Andy Carter. “Telemedicine can be used to connect patients to specialists; deliver life-saving care; and provide critical services such as behavioral health consultations. Senator Vogel continues to demonstrate his unwavering support for the expansion of telemedicine and better access to medical services. HAP and its members appreciate his leadership.”
The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) applauds the reintroduction of this important legislation and credits Senator Vogel for his commitment to advancing a medical technology that may very well change how medical care is delivered throughout the Commonwealth. “The safeguards incorporated into Senate Bill 780 will not only ensure patients receive high quality care, but also allow physicians to provide care to rural and under served patient populations that must now travel to see a physician,” said PAMED President Charles Cutler, MD. “We’re very excited about it.”
The bill establishes that services that are covered by insurance for in-person visit would also be reimbursable for telemedicine, but the measure gives insurers latitude in determining the amount that is reimbursed.