How Telehealth Programs Can Demonstrate Quality and Best Practices

| Deborah Smith, MN, RN-BC

Spending on telehealth services in the United States is expected to increase nearly tenfold in just five years.

According to projections from IHS Technology, telehealth spending per year in the United States will rise from just $240 million in 2014 to $2.2 billion in 2018. It is predicted that there will be 7 million telehealth encounters of all types by 2018.

Driven by demands for better access, convenience, cost reductions, innovation, and an assurance of quality care, private and government payers are expanding coverage for telehealth options. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have parity laws requiring that insurers cover telehealth costs as they would for traditional in-person services.

As the telehealth market is rapidly evolving, regulations are not keeping pace. And telehealth is under scrutiny by stakeholders concerned about the lack of clear parameters on scope of care, patient safety, HIPAA compliance, anti-kickback statutes, and more.

There are no consistent state regulations that address the patient-provider relationship, care coordination with other health care services, provider qualifications, or protection of patient information. And some states have adopted limitations that may actually constitute anti-competitive action.

For the promise of telehealth to be realized, telehealth providers have recognized the need to identify and demonstrate the achievement of benchmark practices. Through extensive consultation with leading industry specialists, attorneys, and risk management experts, URAC identified industry best practices in areas such as access, safety, systems integrity and reliability, and consumer protection and empowerment as well as regulatory compliance.

Learn more about how this approach to accreditation enables an evolving industry such as telehealth to continue innovating while protecting patients at the same time. 

This was first published by MedCity News on July 20, 2016.   Click here to view the original article

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Deborah Smith, MN, RN-BC

Deborah Smith, MN, RN-BC, URAC’s product development principal, has previously served URAC as a senior advisor for strategy and innovation, director of product development, consultant, and volunteer with URAC for more than 18 years. She oversaw the development of URAC’s Telehealth Accreditation program and the redesign of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) certification program.

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