Massachusetts Medical Society: Telemedicine

Telemedicine

THE ISSUE:

Telemedicine allows physicians and other health care clinicians to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology. The dramatic increase in telemedicine utilization prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the vital role telemedicine plays in providing continuity of and improved access to care. Telemedicine has quickly become an essential part of the core health care infrastructure in the Commonwealth.

Telemedicine technology can address some of the greatest health care challenges in Massachusetts, including inequities in access to care, quality, and cost of care. Uses of the technology span from: monitoring the most critical ICU patients; providing 24-7 access to urgent care; better follow-up care after a procedure with frequent, check-ins by physicians and nursing staff; and it greater care coordination, increasing medication adherence, etc. Telemedicine:

  • Helps overcome access barriers for patients; extending geographic reach and expertise of physician
  • Addresses inequities in access to care for patients who have difficulty traveling to a physician office because of location-, age-, disability-, and/or socioeconomic status-related challenges
  • Reduces missed appointments; increasing the capacity and efficiency of physical workspaces
  • Improves the quality of care provided
  • Ultimately helps lower health care costs as a result of the efficiencies and improved quality of care

While Massachusetts has interim telemedicine policies in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no permanent telemedicine regulatory scheme, and because of uncertainties in health insurance coverage and reimbursement, impediments to the adoption and utilization of telemedicine persist. This, in turn, undermines potential benefits the Commonwealth’s health system and patients may reap in improvements in access to and value of care provided through telemedicine.

OUR STANCE:

The MMS supports:

  • Mandated coverage for all medically necessary health care services appropriately delivered through telemedicine technology, as determined by physicians
  • Parity in reimbursement for services appropriately delivered via telemedicine on par with services delivered in-person
  • Parity in the application of deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance requirements for services delivered via telemedicine consistent with payments that would be charged for the same service delivered in-person
  • Prohibiting the requirement of a documented barrier to an in-person visit
  • Prohibiting setting limitations on where telemedicine services can be provided
  • Proxy credentialing and privileges for physicians providing care through telemedicine consistent with federal Medicare Conditions of Participation telemedicine standards
  • Mechanisms to promote the appropriate practice of medicine across state lines

To learn more about MMS telemedicine policies, click here.

RECENT ADVOCACY:

The MMS is actively working with key stakeholders, including more than 35 health care provider, consumer advocates, and technology organizations, through the statewide tMED Coalition , the Massachusetts Telemedicine Coalition, to pass legislation establishing comprehensive telemedicine policy in the Commonwealth.

  • In October 2019, the MMS submitted written testimony to the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Financial Services in support of MMS-filed and coalition legislation to establish comprehensive telemedicine policy
  • In the 2019-2020 legislative session, both the House and Senate passed comprehensive health care bills addressing telemedicine policy (H.4916 and S.2796, respectively). In an extraordinary move, formal legislative sessions have been extended through the calendar year 2020

MMS continues to work with leadership in the House and Senate and is strongly advocating to conference committee members to adopt the strongest possible telemedicine policies.

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