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How Telehealth Programs Can Demonstrate Quality and Teach Best Practices

Friday, June 10th, 2016

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. Currently, more than 10 million Americans are already receiving care through this growing field.

Driven by demands for more convenience, lower cost, innovation, and an assurance of quality care, private and government payers are expanding coverage for telehealth options. Telehealth is also proving important for improving access to care in rural areas. Right now, 29 states and the District of Columbia have parity laws requiring that insurers cover telehealth costs as they would for traditional in-person services. Other states have varying limitations and restrictions.

Anticipated growth in the field of telehealth will not come without challenges. With the overall focus of American health care economics shifting from volume to value, scrutiny of telehealth is inevitable.

There are, for instance, concerns about a lack of clear parameters regarding the scope of care, HIPAA compliance, unfair competition, the proper use of technology, safety of services and quality of providers. Furthermore, states are inconsistently regulating telehealth in areas such as patient-provider relationships, provider qualifications, coordination of services, and how to protect patient information.

This is where an accreditation of services can play a vital role in establishing benchmarks for telehealth quality.

“In a market as fluid and full of innovation as telehealth, there’s been a lack of established independent quality benchmarks and measures to guide growth,” noted Deborah Smith, a vice president at URAC. “Accreditation fills the void by assisting purchasers in making informed decisions as well as addressing regulator concerns about variability among organizations.”

Obtaining accreditation for telehealth services can help an organization demonstrate it is following best practices with regard to quality, consumer protection, qualifications, scope of services, and use of technology. This is the focus of an upcoming complimentary webinar, Telehealth Accreditation: Adding Value to Your Organization Through Independent, Objective Validation. Hosted by the law firm of Epstein Becker Green, this webinar is scheduled for Thursday, June 16, 2016 – noon to 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

URAC’s Smith, who oversaw the development of the quality standards found in URAC’s Telehealth Accreditation, is the featured presenter for the webinar. It will be moderated by Rene Quashie, Esq., a health care regulatory attorney at Epstein Becker Green. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session.

Smith stated: “Accreditation provides clarity for the best telehealth providers. Attainment of URAC recognition means that organizations have demonstrated adherence to nationally established best practices that represent the combined wisdom of a broad array of thought leaders in the field. Independent validation allows them to stand out in a growing marketplace.”

Some of the important principles underpinning URAC’s independent accreditation standards include that a telehealth organization:

  • seeks to expand access to high quality health care services that yield value in cost-effective outcomes and consumer convenience;
  • combines top of license practitioner practice utilizing enabling technology to enhance a licensed practitioner’s clinical practice; and
  • promotes a culture that fosters safe practices that include customary expectations of patient evaluation, treatment, and education.

Additionally, the URAC accreditation process is innovative because it is designed to have a minimal impact on an applicant’s operations and staff through a virtual online review – avoiding time-consuming on-site visits.

Tech-savvy consumers have shown an overwhelming interest in using telehealth services. Providers have similarly high expectations and interest in the field, and the promise of it helping meet the needs of underserved communities furthers the nation’s overall health care goals.

Accreditation can play a vital role in overcoming apprehensions about provider quality and create a baseline for organizations to follow.

To register for the June 16 complimentary webinar on telehealth accreditation, click here.

Interested in accreditation?
Contact businessdevelopment@urac.org

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