Health care services provided via telecommunications are becoming more important to the health care delivery system. Health care providers and payers must adapt to these new technologies and the promise they bring for improving patient care and accelerating clinical care integration.

These technologies, referred to as telehealth, can increase timely access to patient-centered care, enhance patient choice and, through early intervention, can help prevent long-term, costly health events, which can help curb health care cost growth. (FAH uses “telehealth” and “telemedicine” interchangeably.)

Telehealth is defined as the delivery of health care services through the application of clinical information using telecommunications technology for the assessment, consultation, treatment, care management and education between provider and patients located in separate settings. This includes a wide array of clinical services using telecommunications technology, such as internet, wireless, satellite and telephone media.

As policymakers consider opportunities to improve the delivery of services via telehealth, the Federation of American Hospitals recommends the following principles guide future legislative and regulatory activity.

  • Medical and behavioral health services that can be appropriately delivered via telehealth technology should be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and other payers at the same level as when those services are delivered in person.
  • Support efforts for providers to participate in multi-state telemedicine programs.
  • Originating site restrictions should be updated continually as new technologies develop with the goal of eliminating originating site restrictions in order to make telehealth services available to patients where most convenient for them.
  • Access for telehealth services should not be restricted by geography, and all patients, whether in rural, suburban or urban areas, should be able to avail themselves of medical and behavioral health services via telehealth.
  • Reimbursement should not discriminate based on the technology used and should encourage the use of real-time secure bi-directional audio and video, home health monitoring technologies, store-and-forward technologies and other synchronous, asynchronous and remote monitoring technologies.
  • The federal government should take steps to remove Medicare’s restrictions and expand reimbursement of telehealth services, and ensure they conform to the above principles.
  • The federal government, through its role in oversight of the Medicaid program, should encourage states to broadly adopt telehealth services in state Medicaid programs.
  • Health care providers and practitioners engaged in the delivery of services via telehealth should continually strengthen safeguards that ensure the privacy and security of patient data.