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Ensuring Health Care Quality in the Rapidly Evolving Telehealth Field

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

URAC’s latest issue brief, “The Growth of Telehealth Services: The Role of URAC Telehealth Accreditation Standards in Promoting Innovation and Accountability,” discusses the expansion and evolution of telehealth and the opportunity that an accreditation of services offers in recognizing the quality of telehealth providers.

TH PDF graphicNoting the “rapid and revolutionary change” occurring in American health care, the URAC paper calls telehealth “the vanguard of those changes.”

A combination of patient demand and provider-to-provider interaction has helped rapidly expand the reputation and use of telehealth. For example, in surveys, both the public and health care executives express overwhelming support for telehealth services. More than half of all hospitals in the United States now have a telehealth program. Unsurprisingly, domestic telehealth spending is expected to rise tenfold – from around $240 million spent in 2014 to the approximately $2.2 billion that IHS Technology estimates will be spent in 2018.

Factors such as changes in the reimbursement for telehealth services also help drive growth. Major payers that include Medicare, Medicaid, and leading commercial insurers now cover some telehealth services. Additionally, 29 states and the District of Columbia have parity laws mandating coverage of telehealth costs in the same manner as traditional in-person services. Payers are likely to expand coverage as health care progresses along the continuum of paying for value rather than the volume of services.

But this rapid expansion comes with concern about risk. It’s inevitable that telehealth providers will be expected to demonstrate to stakeholders that they can deliver high-quality health care while contributing to the improvement of the overall health care system.

Despite an obvious need, there are few objective and independent performance benchmarks, thresholds, and measurements currently available for telehealth organizations to demonstrate their quality. Telehealth services cannot be judged solely on regulatory compliance – particularly when the current regulatory landscape can change from state to state.

This is why accreditation standards for telehealth are increasingly important.

URAC’s issue brief succinctly explains the importance of telehealth in the evolution of American health care, the risks and rewards it offers, and the principles that define URAC’s first-of-its-kind independent accreditation standards.

For developing and innovating programs, URAC Telehealth Accreditation can act as a tool for migrating an evolving service into a touchstone of accountability, excellence, and best practices. It provides a means of proving quality through a virtual review process designed to have minimal impact on an organization’s operations and its staff.

This free URAC issue brief on telehealth is available now for download by clicking here.

Interested in accreditation?
Contact businessdevelopment@urac.org

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