– Looking to increase quality and access while reducing health care costs, the House Professional Licensure Committee on Wednesday held an extensive public hearing on the issue of telemedicine, said Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks), author of a House bill that seeks to expand this emerging option for health care delivery.
Telemedicine refers to the remote delivery of health care services and medical information using telecommunications technology, a significant and rapidly growing component of health care. 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. Telemedicine can be especially beneficial for patients, physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, employer clinics, behavioral health organizations and prisons.
“The potential for telemedicine is limitless,” said Quinn. “Telemedicine does not seek to replace in-person medical care, but it is another option to increase access to high-quality medical care while seeking to reduce costs. That’s why it is so important to move ahead with the technology available to us and allow patients and physicians to benefit from this type of innovative delivery of health care.”
Quinn’s House Bill 1648
would define the term of telemedicine, offer guidelines outlining who can provide telemedicine services, address professional liability coverage, establish requirements for evaluation and treatment, and set medical record standards. Additionally, the bill would provide clarity that these services will be reimbursed by insurance.
Testifiers at Wednesday’s hearing included physicians, nurses, medical information technologists, insurance industry representatives and a rural school superintendent.
Specifically, telemedicine participants can use two-way video, wireless tools and smart phones in real time that give health care providers, in some cases, more information about a patient’s case and can allow providers to have real-time discussions that can save time – and thereby save lives.
Telemedicine helps increase access in rural areas, where specialists are highly in demand, and reduces travel time for patients. Additionally, in urban and suburban areas, telemedicine can reduce appointment waiting times.
Other benefits have shown telemedicine to be especially effective for patients who need remote monitoring, who have chronic medical conditions or who need behavioral health treatment.
The crux of the issue is reimbursement of telemedicine care by insurance companies. No standard exists in state law for reimbursement, and as a result, reimbursement – and therefore availability and affordability – varies based on insurance coverage. Legislation would not require reimbursement but seek to establish fairness.
“Today’s hearing was an important step forward in expanding telemedicine options across Pennsylvania,” Quinn said. “Because telemedicine options can literally reach across all types of health care, patients and areas, I am hopeful that my legislation can proceed through the process and get to the governor’s desk this year. Pennsylvania patients deserve these life-improving opportunities.”
Representative Marguerite Quinn
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton